SIIM Q&A: Vendor neutral archives at a glance
WASHINGTON, D.C.—A  panel of industry members shared a wealth of expertise about vendor neutral archives during a June 4 question and answer session at the annual meeting of the Society of Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM).

Panelists for the session were Michael Leonard, senior healthcare product manager of Iron Mountain; Shannon M. Werb, chief technology officer of Acuo Technologies and Fred M. Behlen, PhD, president of Laitek. The session was sponsored by EMC.

Q: How is the vendor neutral archive integrated into an EMR?
Werb: The vendor neutral archive still is being defined today, and EMR integration is still blurry. The ability to integrate the archive with the EMR is very important because the EMR is used to acquire content throughout the enterprise, as well as for image viewing. Some vendor neutral archives offer clinical viewers as part of their platform; others offer viewers via partners so organizations can choose their preferred viewer.

Leonard: The vendor neutral archive should be able to interact with multiple different viewers. This capability is very important in the decision-making process.

Q: How can non-DICOM data can be managed by the vendor neutral archive?
Leonard: There are a variety of ways. What’s important is how it’s managed.  One way data can be connected to the archive is as a file share.

Behlen: It’s important to have an immediate use for any information you put in a central archive.

Q: How is interoperability defined by the vendor neutral archive?
Behlen: Some providers define it by regular storage services. The rest are not very vendor neutral-specific. One thing we have to realize is that there are a bunch of features of an archive. There is a lot of tension when you have a lot of functionality. Workflow becomes dependent on features.

There are risks if you have a PACS storing data in a vendor neutral archive and both receive ADT feeds that apply to patient updates. You have to pay attention to the synchronization of ADT feeds.

Leonard: The top required features for the vendor neutral archive are the ability to move data back and forth and between systems, the ability to separate the vendor neutral archive from other storage components and interoperability.

Werb: To summarize, an organization’s core philosophy is critical. Our goal is to integrate and interoperate with everyone, every type of HL7 feed and every PACS viewer. This has to be a philosophical foundation within the organization.

Q: How does migration apply to the vendor neutral archive?
Behlen: One issue is migrating from one vendor neutral archive to the next. With any piece of equipment, organizations need to have vendor assurance that they will disclose the information necessary to get the information out of the system. Sites need a commitment from vendors to help that migration.

For long-term storage, the best thing is to have all data represented in a stored object. The DICOM standard for this is not yet complete, but in a couple of years there may be a formal DICOM standard for this.

Werb: The vendor neutral archive should not only be able to migrate. The migration capabilities should be embedded in the vendor neutral archive system.

Leonard: Build migration specifications into your contracts.