An in-depth look at the present and future of PACS

What is PACS?

PACS (picture archiving and communication system) is used in the healthcare system as a medical imaging technology to safely store and transfer electronic data that are important to patient care. By using PACS, confidential documents, films, and reports can be stored, sent, and retrieved automatically. By utilizing PACS software medical records and patient imaging can be safely stored on remote servers and safely accessible from anywhere, anytime.

Who benefits from PACS?

Since radiology has typically generated the biggest amount of X-ray images, radiologists have generally used PACS; nevertheless, PACS technologies have been introduced into other disciplines, including nuclear medicine imaging, cardiology, pathology, oncology, and dermatology.

As part of a patient's care plan, medical images are taken and evaluated for clinical analysis, diagnosis, and treatment. The data gathered can be utilized to spot any physiologic and anatomical anomalies, track the course of treatment, and give doctors access to a database of typical patient scans for future use.

How does it work?

Images generated by various medical hardware modalities, such as from an X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound devices, are stored, retrieved, presented, and shared using this system. Also, DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine), a standard protocol for administering and transmitting medical images and related data, is responsible for the present use of PACS.

The system consists of four fundamental elements, which are as follows:

  •       Imaging modalities - are the imaging systems used to perform the actual patient scanning necessary to produce a medical image.
  •       Transferring and uploading the image - through a secure network to the database
  •       Workstation for radiologists and medical professionals to view and examine the image
  •       Archives for storage -  another key element is a secure place where the image and the documents that support it can be found by anyone with access to it.

Advantages of PACS

  •       Standard 2D and 3D images can both be stored using PACS.
  •       Data management can be made more effective by lowering the number of identical images.
  •       A patient's radiological history can be viewed in chronological order thanks to it.
  •       Before their patients return to the exam room, surgeons can view images thanks to PACS. This covers all major workflow in addition to improving patient care quality.
  •   Better hospital administration.


Traditionally, a PACS server is connected to the radiology workstation, providing a single location for both the image data and DICOM viewing software. PACS is a great system for storing a lot of imaging data, but it has limitations when it comes to sharing and enhancing medical images. PACS is often limited to one system that is housed within one department. This means that each department's doctor will need to log in from a different server if the same image is to be seen by several departments (for example, radiology, cardiology, or pediatrics) in the same institution. One department's edits might not be accessible to others. Collaboration between departments is therefore challenging.

The challenge of switching to a different vendor is another issue with PACS. This is due to the fact that PACS is a component of the software used for viewing and editing DICOM images. The image is obtained directly from the source and saved in the PACS. The way that data is stored can differ between vendors. Even when images are saved in industry-standard DICOM format, PACS functionalities vary frequently between providers. Images stored in the original PACS may not be retrievable if the hospital decides to switch to another DICOM management program.

Also, the drawbacks of PACS include its price, the requirement for specialist staff for installation and maintenance, the necessity for user training, the potential for malfunction, and data security concerns. 

PACS alternatives

The Vendor Neutral Archive, sometimes known as the VNA, was developed to address the issues brought on by vendor-specific PACS. As its name implies, VNA distances itself from all suppliers of medical imaging technology. The most basic description of a vendor-neutral archive is a program that keeps medical images in a common format with a standard user interface. As a result, regardless of the vendor, any workstation can view photos stored in VNA.

Software platforms that provide solutions for medical image sharing are used for viewing, training, storing, and sharing medical data and amplifying the efficiency of the chosen medical treatment.

An example of a software platform that offers solutions for sharing medical data is Medicai. Medicai's technology integrates hospitals, clinics, doctors, and patients into a network of seamless collaboration — creating a widely distributed, virtual hospital. At the same time, Medicai allows patients to manage their medical imaging and data, then helps them navigate the system. Medicai creates an industry-disrupting network, new pathways, and workflows for doctors, hospitals, and clinics. This in turn enables integration with advanced technology and AI- forever changing the interface of medical imagery.  Medicai can operate independently or integrate with existing imaging systems to revolutionize patient data management.

The future of PACS

How will picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) evolve in the future, and how will this impact radiology practice? As the industry continues to evolve and expands to cover imaging throughout the medical sector, disruptive advancements will require an architectural reform and make the majority of today's commercial PACS outdated. Even the most recent versions of computed tomography and magnetic resonance scanners cannot handle the vast volumes of data being produced by PACS's common architecture. What will happen if the technology advances to include pathological imaging, cone-beam reconstruction, and multispectral imaging if a PACS is unable to handle it now?

As we grow as a society the amount of digital medical images in the healthcare sector increases as well, data analytics of those images become more common, and medical imaging storage solutions are becoming more and more significant.

Medicai prepares healthcare leaders for this future by offering a cloud-native, decentralized infrastructure through which the imaging data can then be accessed by the clinic or hospital team, both from the their existing locations, and remotely via the web or mobile app. 

Medicai Archive is a highly cost-effective medical data archiving solution, seamlessly integrated with the Medicai Infrastructure. It is a cloud native and scalable solution that leverages cold storage tiers, decreasing costs by up to 70%. It’s programmable (you can set your own rules and workflows) and can back up your data from multiple locations. It’s vendor agnostic and compatible with your current systems.

Through Medicai, healthcare leaders can better scale data management and storage as fast as they generate data.

If you’d like to try out technology and hear more about its benefits, please sign-up below and our team will contact you for a short demo:

About the author - Andra Bria

Andra Bria is a marketing manager at Medicai. She is interested in health equity, patient experience and value-driven care pathways. She believes in interoperability and collaboration for a more connected healthcare industry.