PACS in South Africa has had a reasonable growth over the years with many private practices and many public tertiary hospitals having deployed PACS in some form or other. I think it’s reasonable to say that for many of these implementations they are now entering the refresh or upgrade cycle. If I listen to some of the stories the refresh cycle came a little quicker than expected, especially for those in the public sector. Many public sector hospitals have found themselves at the end on their PACS contract with no plan in place to guide them through the transition period. This has created some difficult periods for these sites with some having to shut down the PACS all together. Although the PACS procurement cycle in the public sector is a bit more rigid than in the private sector, which makes the case for a transition strategy greater, there are lessons to be learnt for both.
This brings me to the point of this article. How do we plan to transition from the operational phase of our existing PACS, to the deployment phase of our new or upgraded PACS?
Well one of the ways is to define a transition strategy. Before we look at the key criteria to consider in a transition strategy, let us first identify were in the PACS cycle it fits, and when should we be defining it? The transition strategy defines the actions we will take when transitioning from the operational phase of your PACS to a new or upgraded PACS. The strategy itself kicks in towards the end of the operational phase, and the document covering the operational phase of your PACS is the Service Level Agreement (SLA). We can therefore see that the strategy needs to form part of your SLA and is in fact part of the agreement we have with your vendor. It gives a guide to both PACS owner and vendor to the actions that will take place when entering into the transition period.
Now that we understand were the strategy sits let’s briefly look at some of the key criteria one should address in the strategy.
Data migration – Define what happens to your data at the end of the SLA agreement
Vendor support – Define what support you expect from your existing vendor during this transition period and beyond.
Transition approach – Define how you will approach the transition and the actions you will take.
Transition period – Define how long before the end of your SLA contract you will trigger your transition strategy.
Lessons learnt – Define how you will use previous experiences and information gained to improve the overall PACS transition and future deployment.
The criteria above may not be all that one needs to consider but hopefully it gives some food for thought. The key concept of defining a transition strategy, as part of your SLA, is to trigger an event that starts a defined process as you head towards the end of your PACS’s life. This should prevent you being caught with your pants down as you contemplate your next move at the end of your PACS contract.