picture archiving and communication system (PACS)

PACS (picture archiving and communication system) is an evolving healthcare technology for the short and long term storage, retrieval, management, distribution and presentation of medical images.

Such a system allows a healthcare organization (such as a hospital) to capture, store, view and share all types of images internally and externally. When deploying a PACS, the organization needs to consider the environment in which it will be used (inpatient, ambulatory, emergency, specialties) and the other electronic systems with which it will integrate. A vendor-neutral archive (VNA) can provide a single, consolidated archiving platform with which to host files from different PACS.

A PACS has four major components: 

  • Imaging systems, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed axial tomography (CAT scan) equipment.
  • A secure network for distribution and exchange of patient information.
  • Workstations or mobile devices for viewing, processing and interpreting images.
  • Archives for storage and retrieval of images and related documentation and reports.

The increasing adoption of healthcare information technology (HIT) is stimulating the market for PACS. Global Data forecast that the United States PACS market will grow from $1 billion in 2008 to $2.5 billion in 2015.

Learn more:

FAQ: How does PACS technology affect health care IT?

Hospitals struggling to meet PACS storage needs as files grow.

Turing workstations into imaging hubs with PACS integration.

A before-and-after study on the impact of PACS on rates of duplicate imaging.

This research paper discusses medical image security in a HIPAA mandated PACS environment.

Related glossary terms: medical transcription (MT)
This was last updated in November 2013
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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