Sunday, November 25, 2007

Report from RSNA II...Sectra

The good people at Sectra asked me and Mike Cannavo, the One and Only PACSMan, to review their latest and greatest, IDS7, and we were honored to do so. I won't repeat the alternative name that their head of US operations, John Goble, gave to one of their non-PACS products, but it proved to us that Mr. Goble has a sense of humour, in addition to running a fine operation. You might recall that when Philips dumped Sectra for Stentor (I don't believe in political correctness, and I call 'em as I see 'em), Mr. Goble posted a letter to Aunt Minnie (which I lifted for the blog) in which he promised continued support for all of the Philips/Sectra customers who feared they might be thrown out into the cold. I gather that Mr. Goble has followed through on his promise with flying colors. In addition, he took the high road, never once trashing Philips for their decision. (I almost said abandonment, but that's a bit severe, and Sectra has prospered. Sometimes, a divorce is good for the kids.)

Anyway, IDS7DX, the radiologist version of the new software, looks uncannily like IDS5, which is the version I saw at SCAR (back then it was SCAR) in 2003. Charlotte, the apps person conducting the demo, told us that this was deliberate. Sectra wanted to preserve the look and feel of the product that was familiar to its users, but wished to update the code to .NET, and freshen and "Windowize" the GUI. This they have done, and apparently they have won an award for excellent .NET implementation. I have said disparaging things about Agfa doing similar things, carrying look-and-feel forward in version after version. I'm complementing Sectra on their efforts because they haven't recapitulated esoteric functionality, as Agfa did. Some things work, some don't, and you have to keep very close tabs on your users to find out which are which.

Anyway, as a .NET program, the new Sectra client may be downloaded via a single click, from anywhere. The same client works for everyone. No separate web-appliances need be used. Preserved is the open API construction that allows Sectra to use a large number of third-party modules, such as Voxar 3D and the like. JPEG 2000 compression is utilized as well, and for the Sectra authored volume rendering program, still in beta, Open GL rendering is performed. Nothing like using a $300 commercial card instead of a $2,000 proprietary version!

Worklists are definable at the system, role, and user level (which is what Impax 6.x was supposed to do, but doesn't.) Very complex worklists can be built through drop-downs. The worklist pane of the extensive (and to tell the truth somewhat busy) information screen does not seem to have state-indication (ala Amicas) but you have the entire list of worklists in the pane to the left of the active worklist, and a study can be dragged-and-dropped from one worklist to another. All panes on the information screen can be resized. There is a study-dependent document or comment field. There is also a blank window that can be filled with the html document of your choice, such as a calendar, stock ticker, or Dalai's PACS Blog.

The viewer component is quite similar to the 2003 version, although it seems able to handle large studies with ease. There is the ubiquitious (these days) extensive right-click menu which can be configured to your heart's content, and one can even change the alt-keystrokes for shortcuts. I must admit I still have some problems with this concept, as I did in my old review of IntegradWeb from the late, great DI. Perhaps it benefits those who have a dozen PACS systems and would like to force the keyboard shortcuts and whatnot to match each other, but maybe the industry should find a standard approach? Oh well, I digress.

The viewer is as usable as any, and more so than many. Hanging protocols, however, need work. There is a way to set up custom protocols, but it is rather cumbersome, requiring the use of a series of drop-down menus that contain every possible series description, and then dragging the various series representations to a mock display. Trust me, it is not user-friendly. Sectra apparently assumes that radiologists won't want to do this themselves, and they are correct on that.

Bottom line is that for Sectra, the port to .NET was successful, given that they did not otherwise massively alter a GUI that wasn't bad to begin with. The worklist display needs some updating, and the hanging-protocol setup needs to be revamped, but otherwise, I could like this. More than some other systems I know altogether too well....

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