DICOM Monitors for the Independent Practice or Smaller Clinic
Like the more familiar ".jpg," ".gif," and ".png," "DICOM" is an image file format, and a DICOM monitor is essentially a high-resolution digital monitor that is networked to a PACS ("Picture Archiving and Communication System") employing any one of a number of software applications known as DICOM viewers. Fortunately, as the associated technology has matured, the costs associated with the use of a DICOM monitor has fallen to the point that it is practical for use by the independent medical or dental practice.
Digital Images for Health Care
A DICOM monitor is part of an integrated system that allows Digital Imaging and COmmunication in Medicine. DICOM is possibly one of the most flexible tools in health care, taking advantage in the tremendous advances in information technology. The DICOM format can be used to store medical images created in a wide range of modalities including x-ray and CT scans, which can be viewed using any one of various DICOM viewers. These are software applications that reside on a hard drive or a server that allow digitized medical images to show up on the monitor screen; they serve as different types of "converter." Mammography viewer or PET viewer software enables the specialist to enhance such images using editing software like GIMP and Photoshop (special plug-ins are required), store these on a server and share them with colleagues over the World Wide Web, permitting easier collaboration and consultation, regardless of location. Using an office intranet or network, it is a small matter to set up clinical workstations wherever they may be deemed necessary.
The difference between a DICOM monitor and an ordinary PC monitor is one of degree; although the basic technology is identical, such a medical display monitor is of necessity much higher in terms of resolution. A 2MP monitor (two megapixels) is generally considered to have the lowest acceptable resolution level; a 3MP monitor is the next step up, while the 5MP monitor offers the highest resolution at the lowest cost, providing the most "bang for the buck" (6MP monitors are available, but are currently twice as expensive the 5MP monitors).
The Twenty-First Century Solution
The DICOM monitor can function as a mammography monitor as well as a monitor and viewer for virtually any modality. DICOM is rapidly becoming an industry and world-wide standard for the archival storage and distribution of medical images. If yours is a small, independent practice or you are head of a small public or private clinic with limited resources, you owe it to yourself, your staff and your patients to take advantage of the DICOM monitor and the technology that brings patient diagnosis, record filing and archiving and medical consultation and collaboration into the twenty-first century.