DOD pursues its X-ray vision

DOD pursues its X-ray vision

Navy official predicts move to digital archiving, routing within seven years

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

Despite multiple delays in the Defense Department's $500 million digital radiology initiative, a Navy official has predicted that within seven years, 600 military health facilities will move to filmless systems for archiving and routing radiology images.

Capt. Jerry Thomas, chief of radiology physics at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, said 2006 is not an unrealistic goal.

Thomas was chairman of the technical panel that developed the Digital Imaging Network'Picture Archival and Communication System contract. He also advises facilities that install DIN'PACS.

Tight budgets are pushing many of the deployments back, Thomas said. Some organizations have had trouble coordinating the right system configurations with the construction of new facilities.

Training users also has slowed the program, he said. Sites differ regarding workload, location, hardware and opinions about performance of the DIN'PACS vendors, Thomas said.

Connectivity requirements also have complicated DIN'PACS deployments on large ships, Thomas said. The USS George Washington is installing DIN'PACS, and the USS Nimitz and USS Bonhomme Richard are to follow soon, he said.

The DIN'PACS contractors, the Agfa Division of Bayer Corp. of Ridgefield, N.Y., and IBM Corp., each won a contract in November 1997 with a one-year base period and four one-year options. The vendors must provide a one-year warranty on equipment and eight years of maintenance.

IBM had received more than $33 million in DIN'PACS orders through late April. Agfa took in about $13 million worth of orders by that time, according to officials at the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia, which manages DIN'PACS.

Each DOD health facility must configure its own setup with DIN'PACS links via asynchronous transfer mode or Ethernet networks.

The vendors must ensure that their DIN'PACS systems will work with other DOD medical information systems, such as the Composite Health Care System.

IBM's partners include ADAC Labs Inc. of Milpitas, Calif., Applicare Medical Imaging BV of the Netherlands, Brit Systems Inc. of Dallas, DeJarnette Research Systems Inc. of Towson, Md., Eastman Kodak Co. and Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego.

Agfa's team includes Cabletron Systems Inc. of Rochester, N.H., Cerner Corp. of Kansas City, Mo., Mitra Imaging Inc. of Waterloo, Ontario, and Sun Microsystems Inc.

Systems success

Although there have been delays at some facilities, they cannot overshadow the initiative's successes in the Army's Great Plains Region, said Col. Anna Chacko, chief of radiology at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. She predicted that all Army facilities will have DIN'PACS systems up and running by October 2000.

The Army has obligated DIN'PACS funding for all 10 of its regional health care facilities, said Chacko, who serves as a regional consultant.

DIN'PACS will give the Great Plains users what Chacko called intelligent sensing across the network to form a virtual radiology environment.

The system lets the Army distribute medical workloads based on where radiologists are available, officials said.

'We can streamline people in radiology to get the work done, irrespective of region,' Chacko said. She downplayed the technical challenges and said that vendors have overcome them by connecting digital devices that make a virtual radiology department a reality.

IBM has good modality in getting systems to work with each other, she said.

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