Towards filmless and distance radiology
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To many people radiology is synonymous with films. For 20 years or so, however, it has been possible to capture digitally data traditionally displayed on film, and that was true from the beginning of computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging too. There is more to picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) than the economies of filmlessness and the ability to modify images. To realise the full potential of PACS requires huge and expensively equipped networks linking the radiology department, hospital wards, outpatient clinics, laboratories, family doctors' clinics, and so on, permitting simultaneous consultations on different sites and almost instant reporting from specialist radiologists at a distance. The data sets that need to be transferred are huge but some of the technical obstacles are now being overcome and the past few years have seen some hospitals move to a filmless state. The more common pattern, though, will be a piecemeal approach. PACS and teleradiology certainly provide a quicker imaging service. How soon a total PACS will save money for a hospital operating budget is less clear.
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