RSNA: Networking, privacy issues top list of cloud concerns

CHICAGO—Cloud computing can offer many advantages to radiology, but only if certain challenges—namely networking and privacy issues—can be managed effectively, according to a Nov. 25 session at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) conference.

One of the allures of managing imaging data in the cloud is the IT cost savings for hospitals. However, effective project management is essential for cost savings, explained Fred William Prior, PhD, of Washington University in St. Louis.

Moving to the cloud is not a simple transition, and providers must make sure their network supports a cloud-based storage system, said Prior. A hospital mistakenly could believe it has the ability to push images to the cloud efficiently because it’s on a high-speed university network.

“But those networks are designed so those high bandwidths are on campus,” Prior said, noting that when you try to send data outside of the campus—particularly the terabytes of data needed in medical imaging—the bandwidth speeds slow down. Radiologists used to moving quickly between images will find the pace stutters when loading new studies. “We’re okay with that on our iPhone, but in clinical practice it’s not okay.”

In addition to making sure the organizational network can handle the cloud, Prior emphasized the importance of privacy and security considerations. Obviously when managing its own cloud, a provider is responsible for securing the data. When working with a cloud storage vendor, however, contracts become very important, according to Prior. He cited an article from the November issue of the Journal of the Medical Informatics Association that found as many as 42 distinct contract stipulations that should be included in cloud vendor agreements.

On whether an organization should contract out their cloud, as opposed to managing the cloud itself, Prior said that small-to-mid size providers would find an outside vendor to be the most cost-effective, with the threshold being 10 terabytes of imaging data per year. Once a hospital hits the 10 terabyte per year threshold for imaging data, then it becomes more cost-effective to look at in-house cloud system options, making organization size an additional factor to consider when implementing a cloud system.