Caren B. Les, firstname.lastname@example.org
LONDON – In the field of medical imaging, the global picture
archiving communications system (PACS) market is expected to reach a value of $5.5
billion by 2016, experiencing a compound annual growth rate of 11 percent from 2010,
according to market analysis organization GlobalData. The company noted that radiology
PACS will continue to be the largest segment of the market and will see a compound
annual growth rate of 10 percent from 2009 to 2016. The segment will be driven by
replacement sales and government incentives for health care information technology.
In July 2010, GlobalData published the report, Picture Archiving
and Communication Systems (PACS) – Global Opportunity Assessment, Competitive
Landscape and Market Forecasts to 2016, written by analyst Akanksha Jain.
Shown are screen shots from GE Healthcare’s Centricity PACS-IW system designed for a variety of hospitals, including imaging centers and physician groups that perform imaging. The Web-based
system can leverage Web 2.0 capabilities to go beyond radiologist reporting.
The company also makes a system for large academic hospitals. Courtesy of GE Healthcare
Governments in countries such as the US, China and Canada are
providing financial incentives for hospitals and physicians to adopt a robust information
technology infrastructure, which requires a substantial amount of funding, according
to the report. It noted that, in 2009, the US government dedicated a $19.2 billion
stimulus package to health care infrastructure and Electronic Health Records implementation
by both hospitals and physicians under the HITECH Act, GlobalData reported.
“Mature markets such as Europe, Japan and even the US are
witnessing more uptake of PAC systems at the small- and midsize hospital levels,”
the report stated. “Independent physicians’ offices are an important
unpenetrated market in these regions, and more companies are developing products
specifically for their needs.
“PAC system products for cardiology laboratories and mammography
centers are also important drivers for the market. The cardiology PAC and other
PAC systems markets are forecast to experience compound annual growth rates of 15%
and 11%, respectively, to reach values of $1.3 billion and $825 million, respectively,
from 2009 to 2016.”
Mobile application of these imaging and communications systems
is one of the main current advances in the technology. A number of companies, including
Merge Healthcare, CoActiv Medical Business Solutions and TeraRecon, are now developing
applications that enable physicians to access medical images remotely from “smart
phones” such as the iPhone, the company reported.
Medical images and reports are transmitted digitally via PACS
and eliminate the need for manual film-based processing. PACS typically consist
of an imaging modality such as CT or MRI, a secure network for transmitting patient
information, workstations for interpreting and reviewing images, and archives for
the storage and retrieval of images and reports. The standard protocol, known as
DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) is the universal format for
PACS image storage and transfer.
Automating work flow
The systems can enable the replacement of film-based technology,
remote access to medical images and data, an electronic platform for integrating
radiology images with other medical automation systems, and radiology work flow
“As their functionality increases, PAC systems are rapidly
becoming decision support tools, providing physicians with information and enabling
them to efficiently analyze medical images. Traditionally, the systems have been
used as simple tools for viewing medical images. PAC systems have become increasingly
valuable to clinicians, in part because of the high quality of images now captured
by imaging modalities such as CT, MRI and PET,” GlobalData reported. The company
predicts that newer tools will automate the PACS work flow to make the entire process
“PET and MRI generate a huge volume of medical images that
need to be processed before they can be meaningfully analyzed,” the company
said. “Software that automates the rendering of large amounts of data and
sends only the resulting images to the client computer saves time for radiologists.
New technologies today are aimed at making image manipulation more intuitive, enabling
radiologists to process studies more quickly,” GlobalData stated.
There is a growing need for interoperability, the company said,
when asked about which types of technical upgrades would be seen as older PACS are
replaced with new ones. There is an increasing emphasis on improving patient mobility
and on health care delivery by various professionals and organizations working from
different locations. “Legacy PAC systems usually do not work on common standards
and thus will have to be replaced by newer systems that are compliant,” the
In Europe, health care institutions in regional networks governed
by one entity are adopting interoperable systems to allow for regional integration.
Widespread adoption of standard file-sharing protocols such as DICOM and of Integrating
the Healthcare Enterprise profiles such as Cross Enterprise Document Sharing enable
institution-independent access to records, the report stated.
GlobalData noted many other emerging PACS advances. Vendors are
working to provide integrated one-desktop PACS that offer a point-of-access for
all imaging and diagnostic processes within a hospital – rather than having
separate PACS for each department. Some of these integrated advanced applications
are orthopedic templating, mammography, vessel and cardiac analysis, virtual colonoscopy
and 3-D visualization.
The newer technology is integrating diagnostic applications into
the common PACS platform and linking it to radiology. These capabilities allow technologists,
radiologists, and referring physicians to share data without the need for separate
Faster data transmission, easier-to-use interfaces and lower maintenance
costs are among the technology improvements that we will see in the next few years.
It is expected that PAC systems, many of which now require a specific browser, will
soon be capable of running on most web-enabled devices equipped with standard web
browsers. Newer PACS architectures and platforms are also likely to be vendor neutral,
offering more flexibility.