DICOM Viewers: Integration and Development Issues
Guest post by Tatsiana Levdikova, copywriter, EffectiveSoft.
The DICOM format has appeared more than 20 years ago. Since then a number of technological advancements have taken place resulting in better resolution in such files and an increase in volume of data. New technologies made it possible not only to get just an ordinary photo, but an animated image. Such new options had direct impact on a size of data being processed by DICOM Viewers.
In the meantime, many hospitals continue to use DICOM viewers that were created many years ago. These viewers work slower than latest solutions and lack many useful functions. Besides, they cannot master a growing volume of data. But hospital staff are reluctant to stop using outdated solutions, and there are some reasons for such attitude:
- health professionals are sure that solutions they have been using for years are reliable;
- there is no need to train the staff, so no extra expenses are involved;
- a software update, as a rule, goes hand in hand with a hardware update, thus leading to new expenses.
Consequently, hospitals have to solve the dilemma; they have latest diagnostic equipment that undergoes regular updates, while their software is too old to work with large volumes of data.
Exploring the Paradox
Health professionals do not participate in development of software they make use of. Being user expertise bearers since they deal each day with images, make diagnosis and conduct researches, diagnosticians barely have relation to the development of software they use.
To keep up with latest developments in the field of diagnosis, healthcare facilities have to look for opportunities to make improvements in the diagnostic software, and in DICOM viewers, in particular.
DICOM viewers’ development prospects
There are a number of lucrative directions that DICOM viewers’ developers should bear in mind.
Collaboration plays a crucial role in making a diagnosis. Diagnosticians often consult each other if they have some doubts or if there is a need to get access to a medical history of a patient.
DICOM viewers could become a solution by providing its users with remote access to images. Besides, they could become a tool for an online discussion (where participants could use different graphic tools to review images).
Import of images from different sources (e.g. from one hospital with its own requirements to file formats to another) and their displaying according to requirements and standards of each health facility.
A built-in set of instruments can be extended by improving their functions by giving DICOM viewers’ users to ability to utilize an advanced review, create annotations and notes, measure angles, circles, add annotations, etc.
DICOM viewers could automatically compile medical assessment reports on the basis of available annotations, with hyperlinks to particular images and image areas.
DICOM viewers could also be used in workflow managing by forwarding processed images to other experts for additional research.
Three dimensional modelling is one more promising direction for DICOM viewers, and auto adjustment of images by improving their quality by using latest algorithms for dealing with pixel images seems to be a solution in this case.
Difficulties Developers of Healthcare Software and Health Facilities Face
Quality and accuracy of healthcare software’s work must be very high, and there must be no room for mistakes in order to eliminate a possibility of a medical error. This makes testing a very important part of the development process, and it accounts from 40 percent to 60 percent of the total development time.
IT systems used in healthcare facilities are often outdated and such systems create certain constraints for integration of new solutions into a system and may require reengineering of a whole system. Creation of ad-ons for a system may be a solution in some cases.
Colors’ conversion is another important aspect: DICOM images must be displayed correctly in different viewers and browsers. To make it work developers must ensure correct conversion of images: DICOM images are 16-bit, while browsers and apps support, as a rule, eight-bit color graphics.
A cost of healthcare software development is high. Healthcare facilities can to make their expenses lower by engaging an outsourcing software company with large experience in developing software for the healthcare domain. Such an approach will enable them to save up to 60 percent of the budget.