Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tips for selecting a new PACS or RIS

Just a few thing that I feel are often overlooked or not understood when sites buy a new PACS or RIS system. This isn’t a complete list and I am sure and some of you may disagree with some of my points. That is OK. If this list helps one site make an informed decision in product selection then it has done it’s job.

I will not make any references to any particular vendor here. These are general rules. I don’t think any one PACS or RIS Vendor is the best answer for anyone since everyone has different needs and requirements. I do believe that following and taking note of some of the things I have listed will help sites make better decisions.

That being said let us proceed:

  1. Realize that it is the salesperson’s job to sell you a system. It’s how they feed their families.
  2. Take information he/she gives you as just information on HIS/HER system. No one system has all of your answers despite what you may be told.
  3. Beware of the “Their system isn’t good because blah blah blah” sales tactic. Don’t let the salesperson evaluate some else’s product for you. This is often done to hide or draw attention away from inadequacies in their own system.
  4. A lot salesmen I have come across will tell you what they think you want to hear to get a sale. ( see point 1)
  5. Beware of phrases like “ we are looking to implement that in the next version or a future version” This translates into “ we don’t have that feature right now and possibly never will” . Any feature that you get this response on know that if you go with this vendor you may or may not get this feature so decide if that feature is critical to your installation, since you might never actually see it.
  6. Make sure you know how any PACS or RIS is going to fit into YOUR workflow. Decide ahead of time if you are willing to change your workflow to fit the product. I have seen numerous cases where sites are not using products to the full potential because they want to hold on to doing things “the way we have always done them”.( see next point)
  7. PACS/RIS implementation is ALWAYS a change in workflow, make no mistake about that. If done with proper consideration it will be a change for the better.
  8. Always get references on the product. Ask for an install base and contact other sites already using the product. Don’t just talk to the people that the Vendor gives you. Any Vendor with a worthwhile product will give you a list of all their sites and even help you contact someone there.
  9. If you are buying a PACS system make sure your Radiologists get some hands on time with it before purchase. Talk to other Radiologists using the products and have your Radiologists talk to them as well.
  10. Have your support personnel/support structure in place BEFORE you decide and buy. More than once I have encountered someone who hasn’t even seen the system they are going to be supporting nor do they know what to expect as far as what will be expected of them in terms of user support. This is a sure recipe for failure.
  11. Include your IT/PACS support people in the selection process. I personally feel that the final decision should not be made until these folks have seen the system. Some vendors will lead you believe that daily maintenance is minimal or even that a local support person isn’t needed. DON’T YOU BELIEVE IT !!! Let your own support people look at it and decide how hard it will be to implement/support. Things like is there software to install to use the viewer. Will the software requirement for the product interfere with anything else we have ( this is know as a tip-toe through the Java version ring of hell in some circles)
  12. Make sure that whoever is supporting the system has knowledge of the clinical side of things. Pure IT people look at the system differently than pure Radiology folks. Not all IT people understand the Radiology workflow or the clinical urgency of a down system.
  13. If you are going to use a RIS for billing make sure someone with intimate knowledge from your billing Dept is included in the decision. The same goes for transcription services.
  14. Ask about interfaces between your other systems ( PACS,RIS,EMR,ect..) and the system you are buying . Make sure they have had successful integration with the specific products you are using. Talk to the sites where those integrations were done. Ask THE SITES about any special problems they encountered. Never take for granted that your new system will talk successfully with your current systems.
  15. The biggest point that is missed…… ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT EVERYTHING YOU DON’T KNOW OR UNDERSTAND and ASK FOR EXAMPLES. There is never any shame in asking. The question you ask today could be the ulcer you avoid in 6 months.

    For some other tips on PACS selection See also http://doctordalai.blogspot.com/2007/03/dalais-laws-of-pacs.html

    Hope this helps someone.