My fellow author Erik Ridley (OK, Erik, you can stop laughing now) reports today on AuntMinnie.com about the use of Synergy, an open-sourch program from SourceForge, to control multiple PACS apps from one computer. This was based on a SIIM presentation by Stuart Pomerantz, M.D., from Mass General.
“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.
This is an interesting idea, and actually one I have encountered before. One of my partners bought a second computer, and connected it to the same monitor, mouse, and keyboard as his first computer via a hardware KVM switch. He did this to allow different (and at that time somewhat incompatible) PACS clients
to run on the different computers, but to still be controlled from the same perch in his office. Personally, I thought it was overkill for the purpose.
Pomerantz’s approach does not use hardware KVM switches, but rather networks control via the Synergy program.
With synergy, all the computers on your desktop form a single virtual screen. You use the mouse and keyboard of only one of the computers while you use all of the monitors on all of the computers. You tell synergy how many screens you have and their positions relative to one another. Synergy then detects when the mouse moves off the edge of a screen and jumps it instantly to the neighboring screen. The keyboard works normally on each screen; input goes to whichever screen has the cursor.
In this example, the user is moving the mouse from left to right. When the cursor reaches the right edge of the left screen it jumps instantly to the left edge of the right screen.
Is this all really necessary? I’m not so sure of that either. Most desktop workstations have the horsepower to drive the PACS client, SR window (if you are so unfortunate as to need one), RIS client, and some level of advanced visualization software. If you are using an integrated thin client, there is relatively little impact on your CPU.
I’ll probably try this at home, and amuse my wife and son no end as I scoot my cursor over to their screens while they are trying to do something productive. I might have a different opinion of the efficacy of using this with PACS if I were to see it in action at Mass General, but short of that, this seems to represent about the same level of overkill as the old KVM switch idea. Just my humble opinion, of course.