From imaging studies that produce ever-increasing amounts of data to the proliferation of email, storage needs continue to command attention at healthcare facilities. Cost-effective solutions in a variety of formats with both onsite and offsite backup for disaster recovery strategies all are on the table.
Jim Albin, CIO at Mercy Health Partners Southwest Ohio, has been working with Kodak’s Health Group to establish a central storage archive. Currently, he is using a new infrastructure to archive cardiology and radiology studies. Next to come online will be data and images from pathology, lab and other applications.
The infrastructure has been in place since early in 2006. The goal was to consolidate all images in one location to better manage them for storage lengths of time, archiving and disaster recovery, says Albin.
Effective and transparent storage
One of the features in place is the ability to make real-time duplicate copies. With most of the system’s hospitals using PACS and running off one central environment with integrated images, there is a huge amount of data. Cardiology images already have been added to the storage system with plans to add radiology and pathology in place. Users can access the images through the central electronic record. That results in a high-volume archive that lets Albin manage data more effectively and is pretty transparent for the customer, he says.
Albin teamed with Kodak on the archiving project because Kodak is the organization’s PACS vendor. “Naturally, when we started talking about centralizing the management of images, Kodak was the obvious first choice.”
The organization’s electronic health record — a document imaging system — runs on a different platform because of its different use and integration. “We wanted to focus on clinical images in one environment,” Albin says.
Stored data are mission critical, says Albin. “When you don’t have them, you need them.” He likens storage to insurance. “It’s not high visibility and we don’t get any notoriety but we have a professional responsibility to cover storage needs.”
This process of having a duplicate live copy is a practical solution, Albin says. “Recovering data from another medium would take a year.” Access speed, in fact, is a primary concern at this point. As long as it can take to retrieve data in deeper storage, “it’s always faster than retrieving a paper record.” Meanwhile, Mercy subcommittees need to have further discussions about image management include retention timeframes. Albin recommends discussing as much as possible before putting a plan into place.
”When all is said and done, going back is much more difficult.”
Doing it right the first time
Jim Bates, director of radiology at Naples Community Hospital in Florida, has been working with InSiteOne for the past four years to implement enterprise-wide storage. When Bates started looking into PACS, he heard again and again that the big issue was storage. “As different media was introduced, the old storage became obsolete.” Storage was costly and many of the organizations he talked to had an FTE dedicated to managing the storage system. “We wanted something that was less visible, something in the background that didn’t need hands-on management every day.” Bates also didn’t want to implement a system and then continually need to go back to administration to ask for funds for more storage and upgrades.
Bates found that InSiteOne “seemed to have it altogether.” Once an image is acquired by the technologist and approved, it is sent to the PACS. At the same time, they send the images to two offsite locations that InSiteOne has set up. There is redundancy between the two facilities.
The image also remains on site in the RAID system for one year. “When someone retrieves an image from PACS, it is invisible to us as to where it is,” says Bates. The two hospitals both have onsite storage for films and once that space is full, they go to a warehouse. Before this system was installed, if a physician wanted a study over a year old, someone had to physically go to the warehouse to find it. Of course, that was usually a request that had to be filled by the next day. Now, “even though retrieval from offsite isn’t as fast as RAID, it is a hundred times faster than sending a person to the warehouse.”
The two hospitals of the Naples system are as seamless as possible, Bates says. “They are integrated very tightly.” There also are four outpatient centers that are not under Bates’ control,