PACS systems have been around for awhile, but the big institutional players deploying IDN-PACS are still pioneers in a sense. For most, the data is not yet available to do anything other than estimate a return on investment.

“There are some cost savings you can quantify like film costs and personnel,” says Clarian Health Partners’ Lori Rumreich, MBA. “Those have been quantified in the literature, but the bigger savings with PACS are productivity values and those are hard to quantify. Radiologists are certainly much more productive reading from anywhere in the network instead of driving around or going from room to room. Report turnaround and patient stays are decreased, but those are hard to quantify too. For almost everybody, it is too early to tell. What we are going to see in the next 5 years is the quantification.”

Yet, some insist they can already see a positive ROI.

“Our ROI was 3 to 5 years,” says the Mayo Clinic’s Richard Morin, PhD, speaking of the Jacksonville installation. “We have cut 30 positions, people who used to transport film around. We turned that space into examination rooms. In one area that used to have a darkroom plus two laser printers plus two auto-viewers and a wall of view boxes, we have now put in place an additional CT scanner. There is no question that area is producing more income.

“We would never have been able to grow over the last decade the way we did without going electronic. That growth would have meant more darkrooms. We were growing at a rate of 10% to 14% per year. Our patient examinations are about 270,000 per year now. When we started the electronics installation, they were about 100,000. So, it’s a good thing we did it when we did it.”