J Am Med Inform Assoc 1:361-371 doi:10.1136/jamia.1994.95153424
  • The Practice of Informatics
  • Review

Costs and Benefits of Picture Archiving and Communication Systems

  1. Shawn H Becker,
  2. Ronald L Arenson
  1. Affiliation of the authors: University of California at San Francisco
  1. Correspondence and reprints: Ronald l. Arenson, MD, University of California at San Francisco, 505 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94143-0628. e-mail: ron_arenson{at}


    A picture archiving and communication system (PACS) is an electronic and ideally filmless information system for acquiring, sorting, transporting, storing, and electronically displaying medical images. PACS have developed rapidly and are in operation in a number of hospitals. Before widespread adoption of PACSs can occur, however, their cost-effectiveness must be proven. This article introduces the basic components of a PACS. The current PACS cost-analysis literature is reviewed. Some authors conclude that the PACS would pay for itself, while others find the PACS much more expensive. Explanations for these differences are explored. Almost all of these studies focus on direct costs and ignore indirect costs and benefits. The literature characterizing the indirect costs of PACS is reviewed. The authors conclude that there is a need for uniform, well-defined criteria for the calculation of the costs and savings of PACSs.

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