Robert Cooke

Cost savings. Work-flow/productivity gains. Opportunities for stronger market positioning and revenue enhancement. These are all benefits that can be achieved through the introduction of picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) technology. However, financial and operational improvements do not come about simply by acquiring and installing a PACS. Something more is necessary: Planning.

As is evidenced throughout this Intelligence Report, planning provides the guideposts and benchmarks that allow a radiology team and the larger organization or community served to derive the greatest possible advantages from PACS.

Planning proves essential on several levels, beginning with budgeting. Before committing a single dollar to the procurement of PACS, an enterprise’s top decision-makers invariably want to see indications that such an investment will contain manageable risk and adequate upside potential. Those in radiology who advocate PACS must instill investor confidence in the proposed acquisition.

Health care financial consultant Martin Kleckner III shows precisely how to do it. In his view, a hospital’s chief executive and chief financial officer are not much different in terms of how they choose one investment over another than the average venture capitalist. Investor confidence arises not from cost justifications alone. According to Kleckner, it requires a value proposition aligned with the enterprise’s overarching business objectives, which take in such areas as patient satisfaction, clinician needs, and market positioning.

The requirement for good, thorough planning (expressed in the form of confidence-inspiring documentation) remains a constant from site to site, whether the enterprise considering PACS is a sizable, metropolitan health system like Morton Plant Mease Health Care in Clearwater, Fla, or a small rural facility such as Peace River Community Health Center in Alberta, Canada.

As Morton Plant Mease executive John Couris recounts, his enterprise adopted a conscientious approach to planning that included use of a needs-assessment tool and plenty of operational flowcharts, failure-point analyses, stakeholder interviews, and more. PACS champions were able to provide key decision-makers with a clear conceptualization of what PACS would mean to their health system. Moreover, the enterprise ended up with a dashboard of indicators that helped those same decision-makers quickly grasp the relationship of PACS to cost, service, and outcomes.

In the case of tiny Peace River Community Health Center, author Elizabeth Finch makes plain that the planning process was a vital exercise not only for the benefit of decision-makers at the top, but also for the stakeholders down below. By undertaking the steps of meticulous planning, the stakeholders and champions gained a realistic appreciation of the possibilities-and risks-inherent to the equipment they sought. That was pivotal to being able to optimize PACS.

PACS is too important and costly an investment to be given short shrift in the planning department. It is our hope here at Agfa Corp that this Intelligence Report No. 16 will prove helpful to those about to embark on a digital future.

Robert Cooke is vice president, Impax Solutions, Global, Agfa Corporation, Ridgefield Park, NJ.