Software unifies control of multiple informatics applications

A radiology review station often includes the use of PACS, speech recognition, RIS, electronic medical record (EMR), and advanced visualization applications distributed over two or more PCs, leading to a busy work environment. But open-source software can allow users to operate all of these applications with one keyboard and mouse.

That's according to a presentation by Dr. Stuart Pomerantz of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) at the recent annual meeting of the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) in Seattle.

"Many of the ergonomic benefits of a 'one-box' radiology solution can thus be achieved in a multi-PC environment with keyboard-monitor software at no additional cost," Pomerantz said. He discussed the MGH researchers' experience with an open-source, virtual "one-box" system during a scientific session at the meeting.

A "one-box" approach with all applications running on one workstation would offer ergonomic advantages, allowing users to use a single PC (and keyboard and mouse) to drive all applications, he said. A virtual, network-based "one-box" model would also have this benefit, yet it would retain the flexibility to split into two separate simultaneous input modes for two-person navigation and data entry, according to Pomerantz.

"It's important that the virtual 'one-box' is not through a switching device, through a manual switch where one keyboard and mouse controls a different on-screen connection to one PC or the other, but rather a fluid connection across all PCs with simultaneous control," he said.

The MGH team implemented its virtual "one-box" model using Synergy, an open-source, TCP/IP network-based keyboard-mouse software application. After downloading Synergy, users simply designate a single computer as the host, or the computer that shares its keyboard and mouse. The second computer will then use the other computer's keyboard and mouse, Pomerantz said.

The application was installed on 14 Windows XP workstations in the neuroradiology section of MGH's radiology department. That feasibility study has been successful, Pomerantz said.

"In an already networked environment, the hurdles of implementation and maintenance are very low," he said. "The quality of user-controlled PACS through a single keyboard and mouse is very high."

By Erik L. Ridley staff writer
June 2, 2008

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