PACS and its Archiving Challenges

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An archive is a place where things having historical importance are saved, and the process of collecting all those documents and records having information about a place, institution, or group of people is called archiving. When it comes to computers, archiving is usually long-term storage of data. But, archiving has its own challenges and in this article, we explore the vendor neutral archive definition, how PACS and VNAs tackle those problems.

Archiving in PACS and VNAs

Although sometimes PACS and Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) work basically the same way, they actually have different end goals. They want to become everything but the main focus falls on improving the workflow for PACS, Vendor Neutral Archive, on the other hand, focuses mainly on back-up and archiving. This doesn’t mean PACS don’t archive, they archive as well. PACS archiving, although it may last for quite some years, has its own problems.

The Interoperability Problem

The biggest problems that arise when a cardiology department looking to upgrade or overhaul or replace its cardiovascular picture archiving and cardiac PACS, or CVIS- Cardiovascular Information System are related to integration and interoperability.

One of the most common misbeliefs in archiving through PACS is that people think that their PACS is DICOM conformant and therefore there will not be any interoperability problem. Interoperability is the computer software’s ability to exchange and make use of information. An example of interoperability is that IHE has these integration profiles that let the organizations understand what the actual formatting looks like.

So, for those integration profiles to be interoperable, each vendor’s information system and their PACS must be followed in order to be interoperable. So, although people may think there won’t be any interoperability problems, in reality, there are. To store data, every PACS has its own internal formats. To store image presentation states and key image notes, every PACS has its in-built proprietary methods. And so, there are interoperability problems.

How PACS Archives Data

When you want to archive something in computers, you try your best to make it smaller, a simple solution to this is compressing the file so that it gets a smaller size and this way you can archive more. This also makes the process of archiving faster and more efficient. PACS usually can archive images for a few years: 3 to 5 years is the most common. The storage size depends on the patient load, modalities types, and the duration for which the images are to be stored and it can vary from terabytes to petabytes, or even exabytes and zettabytes.

PACS tackles the problems of disk failures through Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) which is also known as inexpensive disks. This mechanism is built-in in PACS and it’s an expert on tackling disk failures.

Conclusion

Although PACS has some problems regarding archiving, it has been reliable for so many years and most of the hospitals still use them. VNAs are a recent phenomenon and in the future, it may take archiving to a whole new level.

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