Monday, September 14, 2015

Universal Improvements

I have referenced some of our trials and tribulations with the new GE Universal Viewer, which is technically version 5.x of Centricity.

We've found that some of our problems were of our own making, with the help of some unusual programming on GE's part. The disappearing measurements, for example, didn't really disappear. Rather, my hanging protocol created a clone of the main window, and if things are measured there, they won't show up, although they do live on as the Saved Presentation. Lesson learned. Various other "glitches" were due to our lack of understanding of something esoteric. Well, if they all worked the same, no one would buy the expensive PACS, now would they?

However, one problem has not yet been fixed, that of skipped images. We thought at first this was also due to the clone window handling, but apparently it is a coding error. Which is to be fixed. IN THE RELEASE AFTER NEXT!!  Um.....GE....a glitch that hides patients' image data is a VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM! This is the sort of thing that calls for emergency hot-fixes and mea culpas to the FDA. I do have to admit that the problem is not as bad as what we saw with Centricity 2.x, wherein scrolling would simply jump over images; UV 5.x tells us when it's skipping images by flashing "0% Loaded" in the missing frame. This is a definite improvement, can do better!

Anyway, a team from GE came by the other day to show us how things will improve.

The two apps people who came to visit were well-known to me, one having demoed Centricity to us about 12 years ago, and the other having shown me the Universal Viewer for the first time at RSNA 2012. They brought a laptop-based workstation and server, and a cargo-load of monitors. Given the fact that we just redid all the workstations, couldn't we have simply, temporarily downloaded UV 6.x on our station, saving a LOT of time and effort? Oh well, I guess that's why I'm not in sales.

The team showed us a few things we already had that we didn't know about. For example, two CT series can be synchronized by "Image Registration" as well as position or slice number. The modifier was there all along under the Sync menu, but I never thought to look there. Perhaps theres also a "Sync by Phase of the Moon when Study Acquired" or "Sync by State of Consciousness" in there, too. I'm sure there are other little Easter Eggs hidden in the somewhat scattered GUI I haven't found as yet.

UV 6.x apparently plays nicer with Windows than 5.x. We had complained about the Navigator pane disappearing behind the Patient Folder; resizing the latter will solve this temporarily, but the windows all revert back to where they were upon opening the next study. Ah, Windows. Some problems scrolling through old reports after clicking somewhere else supposedly will be improved in the next release as well.

One of the main deficiencies in UV to date has been the lack of the promised ability to read PET/CT without adding the Advantage Workstation Server. We were shown the AW functionality, which is FINALLY tightly integrated into UV about 12 years after it was supposed to happen. It does appear to work as I would expect it to, with all windows, planes, 3D renderings, cartoons, and other stuff linked. Adjust one, the others all follow, whether on UV or AW. Very nice. This gives us the full PET/CT reading capability, matching that of the old AW upon which we now depend. Works for me. There's also a nice OncoQuant module which we may or may not get that will allow serial lesion measurements. That is, after all, what we do in oncologic imaging. Having a table of what was there before could certainly help us to be certain we measure all the lesions seen last time. Each. And. Every. Single. One.

I took a few moments to rant about the control layout of UV, which is not terribly logical, and can get worse depending on what buttons are pressed, and what the state of the viewer might be. For example, when using measurements (obviously the bane of our existence), the buttons for linear measurement, ROI, etc., are placed to the right of the "Study Dictated" button, which is otherwise nicely placed at the end of the line. Yes, said GE, you are not the first to complain about that. Well, gee, GE, how about trying these things out with real users before deploying them? Little problems could be caught before they become big problems. That would be nice, and few companies do it. My services are available for a very reasonable fee!

Having heard of our difficulties with another PACS, the reps approached me after the demo and wondered if this might be the time to present their wares to the troubled site. Since the problems there might not be the fault of the PACS itself, I urged patience. A LOT of patience. Like wait until I've fully retired patience... Some of my former partners have told me quite clearly that they would really rather not have to use UV anywhere else. To them, I urge patience as well; UV represents tremendous progress over its predecessors, and you never know how much better it might get...

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