The Uses and Benefits of RIS/PACS

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RIS-PACSMedical imaging is an important diagnostic service and technology in hospitals and is a critical component of many patient care services. More often, it is composed of two systems: the Radiology Information System (RIS) and the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS).

Let’s just review the definitions given in this previous post.

Radiology Information Systems (RIS)

According to Wikipedia, a Radiology Information System (RIS) is

a computerized database used by radiology departments to store, manipulate, and distribute patient radiological data and imagery. The system generally consists of patient tracking and scheduling, result reporting and image tracking capabilities. RIS complements HIS (Hospital Information Systems), and is critical to efficient workflow to radiology practices.

Here’s a common question I get: Is the RIS different from PACS?

Answer: Yes, often it is. In the simplest sense, the RIS manages patient information, orders and workflow processes, while the PACS manages medical images and storage.

Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS)

According to Wikipedia, A Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) is

a medical imaging technology which provides economical storage of and convenient access to, images from multiple modalities (source machine types). Electronic images and reports are transmitted digitally via PACS; this eliminates the need to manually file, retrieve, or transport film jackets.

Uses and Benefits

The main use of RIS/PACS is centralized storage and retrieval of medical images. This makes it very easy for the imaging department to manage medical images, especially DICOM images. Some hospitals use optical media (CD’s and DVD’s) for storage. Although this works for basic storage, this method makes it hard to retrieve a specific file and search through several records.

The RIS also handles patient and resource scheduling. This is especially useful for services that are almost always at full capacity.

Many RIS not only store medical images but also store the associated readings and interpretation. This is great for a more efficient and effective clinical workflow.

Tips to Help Justify a RIS/PACS Project

RIS/PACS can be expensive purchases for the hospital. However, they are not that hard to justify given that they often pay for themselves. That’s the advantage of setting up an IT system in a hospital revenue center.

Focus on the following areas for your business case:

  • Improved turn-around times: What used to take hours can become minutes when using a system that automates many manual processes.
  • Capacity and volume increase: With better turn-around times, it’s possible to increase procedure runs and patient volume with existing set of instruments and analyzers.
  • More work, less paper: Radiology staff is able to focus on work that provides more value rather than doing paperwork.
  • Improved patient safety: With faster TATs and better access to readings, patient safety is improved.


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