Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Some Up-and-Comers..
Building a Better Mousetrap?
Chapter I: Emageon

I've been dawdling about writing this post, mainly because there is so much information I should include. The longer I wait, the more the details ebb from my declining memory, so I'm going to buckle down and get 'er done.

I had the chance to see several PACS systems on display at RSNA. I had very brief looks at McKesson and eMed products, really not enough to provide blog-fodder. It is of note that the eMed/Merge/Cedara booth featured eFilm 2.1 all over the place and hid the much more elegant Matrix product deep inside. I'll never understand marketing.

I took a fairly in-depth look at Emageon, Intelerad, and Dynamic Imaging, and Brit Systems. Superficially, the first three look fairly similar. Brit's Workbench interface looks a little different, and I'll deal with that shortly.

To keep your appetites whetted (and because it might be next year until I finish it otherwise) I am going to divide the post into individual sections. We'll start with Emageon.

Emageon is the brainchild of some neurosurgeons from UAB, my old stomping ground. It uses a web-based Oracle database approach, with a Java applet as the viewing client. It is said to use "Open Standards", although I don't think they are accepting revisions ala Linux. Interestingly, they are the first company I know of to use Open GL for rendering, an idea that has been a long time in coming to the mainstream PACS market.

Emageon's worklist looks like, well, a worklist, with flags for "study in progress" and the like. It does not use color to the extent that Amicas does with the RealTime Worklist, but then no one else does that. It has a new twist, set for introduction early next year, a group of folders set off to the left side. One can drag studies into a folder for your own customizable organizing. If you drag to a "teaching file" folder, the examination will be anonymized. The viewer also has a twist, it uses tabs (which they refer to as "fly-out's) over on the right side for various controls, somewhat reminiscent of the GE Centricity Web client, although Emageon's work a bit more smoothly. Click here for a nice Flash demo of this function. Everything is customizable for every modality...zillions of permutations are possible. Hanging protocols are relatively easy to deploy. One can customize the DICOM overlay, but to do so you have to know the various codes, e.g. {PatientBirthDate}. Notes can be added at the patient, study, or series level, and voice clips are available.

Emageon purchased UltraVisual, and is using their 3D components. These can be deployed in various windows like any other sequence, and can be included in hanging protocols. (Emageon has recently purchased Camtronics, and so will now provide cardiac imaging tools. Apparently, this purchase just about wiped out their piggy-bank, and it remains to be seen how this will affect their future.)

You will have to wait until the end of this mini-series to hear my editorializing, but I would give this product the Dalai Stamp of Usability: All in all, it is a usable product (I don't have to tell anyone which products I deem unusable...)

Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter!

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