PACS solutions combine hardware and software for a systematic archival of medical images, incorporating specialised software to distribute image files across the hospital via routers. The system is fully able to handle images that are produced by means of nuclear scanners, ultrasound devices, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computed Tomography (CT), and X-rays of the patient's lungs and skeleton.
The Nij Smellinghe Hospital has a capacity of 305 beds. The implementation with Kodak's PACS, including the network and the different connections, has amounted to approximately 2,75 million euro. At present, only a few number of Dutch hospitals are provided with a PACS system. In the following years, several millions of euros will be spent by the Dutch health care organisations to further implement digital radiology technologies.
Currently, Nij Smellinghe is already a 100 percent filmless hospital. Patient images no longer are recorded on film and the hospital staff has decided not to digitise the existing images which have been archived on ten thousands of film tapes throughout the years. The conventional archive automatically will die out. Experiences in other hospitals have shown that images, older than six months, rarely are taken from the archive for consultation, according to Dr. Mathilde Hommes, who is the head of the Radiological Department at Nij Smellinghe. For this matter, the investment in a full digitalisation of the old archive would be too high, both in costs and in human effort.
The new patient images are recorded on hard disks using RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disk) technology, allowing to make continuous back-ups. After seven months, the images are put on tape. The complete storage capacity amounts to 10 terabytes, which is sufficient to cover ten years. Short term storage images request a loading time of five seconds at the most. When the images have to be loaded from tape, waiting time takes 3 to 5 minutes.
In the Nij Smellinghe Hospital, doctors and nursing staff can consult images at over 80 workstations, equipped with traditional 17-inch monitors. For the majority of medical specialities, no higher resolution is required. Yet, the five radiologists can dispose of 10 special high-resolution monitors plus an extra consulting station with four additional monitors.
Through the hospital network, the new PACS system is fully integrated with Rados, the radiology information system (RIS), developed by Philips Medical Systems, as well as with the hospital information system, designed by Torex. As a result, both radiology reports and patient data from other systems can be combined with images from the PACS solution. Also, waiting times for the patient between image taking and specialist diagnosis have been shortened substantially.
The Kodak PACS system was implemented in no time. After the contract was signed at the end of May 2000, installation followed in September and within three months, Nij Smellinghe was turned into a filmless hospital. The Kodak PACS purchase means a first step towards the renovation of the old hospital and the new buildings which the Nij Smellinghe staff will move into by 2004, as stated by the Automatisering Gids.