Tools to help manage your PACS project

“We do not recommend email for effective project communication” by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

So you’ve got your PACS team together, now you’re gonna need some tools to keep them together and promote effective team working around their other day jobs.

Let me guess, you couldn’t find the resources for a dedicated full time PACS team so most of the people have day jobs too and they are seriously time poor even if they are really interested.

That’s why a modern distributed and agile team need tools to match their work and lifestyles.

Don’t expect to have as much quality face to face time in the same meeting room, uninterrupted by calls and work duties. In fact, don’t plan for that just accept it will not happen and build your team around a distributed model where they are quite able to dip in and out of meetings and still not miss out.

Avoid email where possible

Everybody hates work email.

Your inbox is no different to mine, full of spam — i.e. uninvited communication which obscures the good stuff and reduces the signal to noise ratio. That’s why I don’t recommend a reliance on work email to arrange important meetings and carry out important discussions. Email is terrible for a number of reasons

  1. We’re all sinking in spam and will miss something important
  2. Communication is poor, no body language, intonation nor ability to joke, get serious or gesticulate which are all important nuances of physical communication
  3. Searchability is awful — “ I sent you the file on the 24th, have you not got it?”
  4. It promotes the use of attachments which are awful for version control — “ No not that protocol, the one I sent on the 29th with the same name”
  5. Most of us (by choice) don’t carry around access to our work email so it is in fact not an effective way of communicating which by definition means the delivery of information or a message

So which tools might you use for succesful PACS project management

Trello

At the Yorkshire Imaging Collaborative we adore using Trello for distributed team based project management. It allows a widely spread team to always be up to date with current issues and documents at their fingertips and it’s super easy to use.

The Harrogate District Hospital PACS replacement project (screenshot above) has extensively made use of Trello to plan and execute their PACS replacement. It has proven a wonderful way of keeping a large number of stakeholders in the loop when issues arise, get solved (important!) and allowing contribution to the project independent of location.

As the clinical lead I love being able to see my team’s progress at the end of a long clinic day or even when I’m out of the workplace.

Vendor engagement has to be the best feature. Our partners at AGFA Healthcare have actively participated in the boards and discussions helping to rapidly resolve issues without the need for constant phone calls and (lost) emails. Given that many of the AGFA Healthcare technical staff are located in Belgium and we are in the UK this has been pivotal to rapid and agile issue resolution.

Video Conferencing (We love Zoom)

Whilst in person meetings are a gold standard, they are difficult to achieve in a busy healthcare setting when most of your team have other day jobs too. We accept that this is the case and recommend that video calls are a better form of communication than voice teleconference calls where you cannot see the person.

Crucially, with a video conference call, you can screen share and illustrate bugs or desirable features directly to your vendor or your team. One of the hardest things with large IT projects is just communicating the changes needed and the bugs you have found, something especially true in a complex application suite like a radiology PACS.

We find Zoom to be a best of breed modern solution available for all devices again meaning that you can be involved in a higher quality meeting even when off site. Zoom also has the best screen sharing and annotation features around right now. Best of all it’s free for 40-min calls for small teams.

A venerable alternative which is already widely used by the NHS is Webex which recently had to up its game and offer a free tier (Only 2 participants sadly). Google Hangouts also provides a good totally free alternative but we find it is more frequently blocked by NHS IT firewalls.

Screen grab software

Arrow showing a problem with annotation of images for vendor’s attention

To be able to grab screenshots to annotate bugs and feature requests to either upload to your issue board or send to your vendor is a really effective way to communicate and work.

The one built into Windows will do just fine!

But you can also find some nicer more feature rich alternatives.

Screen video capture recording software

A little more complex to use than simple screenshot software but useful because some issues simply cannot be explained without capture of actions and workflow process. It’s really helpful to software engineers to understand the steps you took to recreate a problem and debug it or explain how you should do something.

Camtasia is the most well known fully loaded screen recording software with great features but a steeper learning curve and price.

Example taken from LICEcap website

We recommend LICEcap a simple capture tool that outputs GIF animations. It only suits short small screen area recordings because otherwise image sizes are large but can be put to great use for showing simple bugs and weird behaviours in software without recording all 3 screens of PACS!!

WhatsApp

Yes, you did read that correctly… make yourself a team for the PACS project team because there is simply no easier way to communicate on things like meeting venue changes or quick questions.

Of course you need to act responsibly and never share patient identifiable or sensitive business data even with the automatic end to end encryption.

YIC Forum

https://forum.yorkshireimaging.org

We listened to you tell us over and over again that you needed a place to share experience, tips and tricks relating to your Yorkshire Imaging Collaborative PACS migration and we came up with YIC Forum — a private discussion board for collaborative members to meet and help each other.

Have you got any must have tools for PACS project management?