Film-based X-rays are quickly disappearing in England, as its health-care facilities switch to a digital system that can send images of broken bones and fractured ribs over a network instantly to different clinics.
The system, known as the Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS), is working in half of the clinics in England, the National Health Service (NHS) said Monday.
PACS has been a noted success of the NHS’ 10-year plan to modernize its IT system, a project marred by criticism over its price tag and procurement problems.
The NHS will invest more than 1 billion pounds (US$1.9 billion) in PACS through 2014. Overall, the NHS’ plan — the National Program for IT — is estimated to cost 12.4 billion pounds.
The PACS project is one that the public can most easily understand the benefits since it eliminates treatment delays while images were physically sent to specialists, said Tola Sargeant, a public IT infrastructure analyst at Ovum in London.
“As soon as the image is taken, it’s available for consultants to look at,” Sargeant said.
Health officials can quickly access records over a secure broadband network called the New National Network (N3). The system has also reduced the number of lost X-rays, since they’re securely stored on the network.
PACS eliminates film and developing costs, the NHS said. Images are viewed on a computer screen, also eliminating lightboxes and microfiche readers, the NHS said.
In August, the NHS said more than 45 million images are stored on the network, representing some 2.7 million patient exams.
The NHS said the system will help it achieve a goal of no more than 18 weeks between when a patient is referred and eventually receives treatment.
-Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service (London Bureau)
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