UNM hospitals see new picture system

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Prices for integrated Picture and Archiving Communications Systems from Philips Medical Systems have fallen enough for the University of New Mexico Hospitals to deploy one by the end of July, said the organization's chief information officer.

"We waited for years to be able to afford this," said Ron Margolis, the hospital system's CIO.

PACS costs have recently dropped so dramatically that they are in the now in the range of publicly funded hospitals with limited IT budgets. The Philips PACS product costs roughly $1.5 million annually over three years, a price that Margolis said was a break-even cost, and affordable within his $5 million-a-year information technology budget.

The drop in PACS prices directly reflects falling costs for storage needed to handle the mass of information generated by these systems, Margolis said. Philips' product will replace systems from Siemens Medical Solutions. With the new installation, the UNM hospital system, which includes five hospitals and more than 60 clinics, expects to archive between five and eight terabytes a year from a variety of medical digital imagery. This will include output from X-ray machines, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines and computerized axial tomography scanners.

Philips' system will feed 37 high-end radiologist workstations, Margolis said, with an additional 2,200 computers on the hospital network able to access lower resolution images. The hospitals and most of UNM clinics, save for remote ones, share a broadband network rated at speeds from 100 megabits/sec to 1 gigabit/sec -- more than enough to handle large image files, Margolis said.

The university will integrate the Philips PACS system with the hospitals' Radiology Information System, a Corner Corp. product, which collects, displays, manages and delivers patient information. This system feeds information into the hospitals' electronic health record system, also provided by Corner, Margolis said.

The new PACS system will be able to deliver an archived image within "one or two seconds" after a request or search, Margolis said. It also ensures that few images will be misplaced or lost, which happens about 10 percent of the time with film-based images, Margolis said.

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