Medical imaging technology is now more advanced than ever in the history of medical imaging. Picture Archiving and Communications System, or PACS, has been the primary choice for medical professionals for storing and archiving medical image data for years, but in the last few years, a new player has entered the race- Vendor Neutral Archive aka VNA. They also provide space for medical image storing, archiving and sharing. And it has become very popular in a pretty short amount of time. Today we explore vendor neutral archive vs PACS: their differences and which one is the better choice.
PACS and its Pros and Cons
In Layman’s terms, PACS is basically a server that is used for storing, archiving, and retrieving medical image data. Most medical image files today are digital and digital files need digital places to be stored. PACS allows its users to do this for many forms of medical images, e.g. MRI, X-Ray, CT, PET scans, etc. PACS stores data in chronological order and gives a label for identification purposes.
Before storing, every image file is tagged using relevant information e.g. the patient’s name, the referring doctor, date of acquisition. When the users want to retrieve the data, they can easily find the data using any of those tags.
There are two main difficulties to use PACS. One is sharing. Usually, PACS are restricted to one system for one department, this makes it problematic because when another doctor from the same hospital wants to see the image, she will have to log in to the PACS server using a different server; also edits done by one department’s doctor may not be visible by the doctor from other department!
Another problem is migration. Images can be acquired and directly stored in PACS, and this process may vary between vendors. PACS features often vary from one vendor to the other and doctors have to choose the same vendor the original image was stored in to see if they want to see it later on.
VNA and its Pros and Cons
The main goal behind the creation of VNA was to solve the problem of vendor migration. VNA, in essence, does the same thing that PACS does, but it does so with vendor neutrality. Meaning, doctors can see the images using different vendors than they were originally stored in. Images VNA is stored and viewed in an integrated manner and they are accessible from any device and location. VNA separates the images from the surrounding fluff to make sure the images are standardized and compatible with all workstations.
Since VNAs are relatively new, they are pretty expensive and since they need to be bought separately from the DICOM viewers and PACS server, the integration of the newly purchased VNA into the existing PACS is costly.
When it comes to VNA or, vendor-neutral archive vs PACS, VNAs definitely have an edge. Many hospitals are using VNAs and with even more usage, the cost will be reduced.