Question: What are the uses and benefits of a RIS/PACS?

Medical imaging is an important diagnostic service and technology in hospitals and is a critical component of many patient care services. More often, it is composed of two systems: the Radiology Information System (RIS) and the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS).

Let’s just review the definitions given in this previous post.

Radiology Information Systems (RIS)

According to Wikipedia, a Radiology Information System (RIS) is

…a computerized database used by radiology departments to store, manipulate, and distribute patient radiological data and imagery. The system generally consists of patient tracking and scheduling, result reporting and image tracking capabilities. RIS complements HIS (Hospital Information Systems), and is critical to efficient workflow to radiology practices.

Here’s a common question I get: Is the RIS different from PACS?

Answer: Yes, often it is. In the simplest sense, the RIS manages patient information, orders and workflow processes, while the PACS manages medical images and storage.

Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS)

According to Wikipedia, A Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) is

…a medical imaging technology which provides economical storage of and convenient access to, images from multiple modalities (source machine types). Electronic images and reports are transmitted digitally via PACS; this eliminates the need to manually file, retrieve, or transport film jackets.

Uses and Benefits

The main use of RIS/PACS is centralized storage and retrieval of medical images. This makes it very easy for the imaging department to manage medical images, especially DICOM images. Some hospitals use optical media (CD’s and DVD’s) for storage. Although this works for basic storage, this method makes it hard to retrieve a specific file and search through several records.

The RIS also handles patient and resource scheduling. This is especially useful for services that are almost always at full capacity.

Many RIS not only store medical images but also store the associated readings and interpretation. This is great for a more efficient and effective clinical workflow.