It’s critical for modern veterinary practices to have a picture archiving and communication system (PACS) that allows them to store, share and access medical images. However, the upfront cost of an onsite solution can be as much as $50,000, which is a huge outlay for a small veterinary practice to digest.
If you need to purchase a PACS but only have a small budget, the best option may be a cloud-based solution. This kind of service allows you to pay only for the functionality you actually use and doesn’t require a significant upfront investment in expensive onsite hardware and software. You typically will pay-as-you-go for the system based on actual usage, enabling you to coordinate your costs alongside your patient revenue.
Key Benefits of the Cloud
When you use a cloud-based veterinary PACS, the company that provides the service will ensure you always have sufficient storage and will handle maintenance and upgrades, so you don’t have to hire internal IT staff to manage those tasks. There is also no need to worry about the inevitable technology obsolescence problem as new, faster and more capable computers enter the market.
With a cloud PACS, you avoid theses headaches along with the costs associated with repurchasing new equipment every three to five years.
What to Look for in a Cloud PACS
The ideal cloud-based PACS for a small veterinary practice keeps as much of the infrastructure as possible off-site. All you need at your practice is a system that allows you to connect to the cloud and view your images.
In most cases, a computer with a basic internet browser should fulfill this purpose. Avoid systems that require you to purchase purpose-built viewing stations in favor of ones that allow you to use your existing or off the shelf computers. You will also need sufficient bandwidth to communicate with the cloud, so it may be worth investing in a high-speed internet connection for your practice if you don't have one already.
Not only will this make your use of the cloud for imaging much more practical, it will also enhance all of your other digital appliances such as your phones, tablets, your fax capabilities and other internet utilizing technologies.
Overall, an investment in the cloud is usually a fraction of the cost of purchasing an expensive onsite PACS.
Only Pay for What You Need
The best cloud vendors don’t charge you for services you don’t use. Period. So, if your practice only generates 25 medical image studies each month, you should be able to buy a service plan that reflects your low volume.
You can also keep costs down by ensuring that you choose a cloud-based PACS that is designed to meet the needs of small private practices, rather than a plan that is aimed at large institutions. The right cloud-based PACS solution will give you the option to increase your access to storage and other features as your business grows. The best cloud vendors can give you pricing based on your actual usage and provide plans that scale to meet your expanding needs as you grow your practice.
Don’t Sacrifice Functionality for a Low Price
While cloud PACS solutions are very affordable, just because you need to stick to a finite budget doesn't mean you should make sacrifices in PACS functionality. Don't settle for vendors or services that offer lower quality products to cut costs. Your loss of efficiency in using a low-quality solution will quickly counteract any cost savings. Instead, choose a PACS that gives you all the functionality you need, and you will be happier and more efficient for having done so.
Select a veterinary PACS that enables the sharing of images with other physicians, template and report creation with key image integration, practice management software (PMS) compatibility, and provides a reliable disaster recovery backup service.
Your cloud PACS should also store your medical imaging files in standard Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) format, as this is the universal standard. If your files are stored in this format, you won't need to worry if you decide to change vendors in the future.
When looking for a veterinary PACS that meets your financial constraints, a service that offers a cloud-based pay-as-you-go model is often the best option. A cloud-based service that allows you to pay only for the level of service you need can help you to keep costs down while greatly expanding your functionality beyond what is capable with traditional onsite hardware.