HealthBlog

Thoughts, comments, news, and reflections about healthcare IT from Microsoft's worldwide health senior director Bill Crounse, MD, on how information technology can improve healthcare delivery and services around the world.

Medical image archiving in the cloud? Consider the 4 S’s

Medical image archiving in the cloud? Consider the 4 S’s

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imageOne of the most compelling arguments for storing digital data in the cloud is medical imaging. It is estimated that data from medical imaging (digital x-rays, CT, MRI, PET scans, etc.) already accounts for about 30 percent of the world’s total data storage capacity. Add to this the ever increasing density and complexity of digital images along with other very large data sets such as genomic and proteomic information, and you will soon come to the conclusion that on-premises archiving of such vast amounts of digital data will exceed virtually any individual hospital or health system’s capacity for storage. So, if it is becoming a forgone conclusion that you cannot possibly store all that data even now, let alone in the future, what should you be looking for in a cloud storage partner? Let me suggest some of the things I think need to be top of mind. Let’s call them the 4 S’s of data storage.

imageSimple—Health IT needs to be far simpler than it is today. The core competency of a hospital or clinic is patient care, not information technology. Scarce IT resources should be directed at projects and solutions that improve patient care, not running a data center. However, if you are going to trust someone else’s data center with what is perhaps your organization’s most precious cargos, then they better be able to do it with far less cost and complexity than is the case for doing it yourself.

imageScalable—I’ve already stated that medical imaging consumes a big chunk of the world’s data storage capacity, and that this demand will only increase in the years ahead. You need a cloud storage partner that is in it for the long haul, and one that can scale both up and down according to the needs of its customers.

imageSecure—It goes without saying that you want a cloud storage provider that is highly aware that not all data is created (or stored) equally. There can be no fooling around when it comes to Protected Health Information as defined by HIPAA. You don’t need a cloud service provider that monetizes its services by snooping around in your data or selling it to others. You want a provider that has the same high regard for the privacy and security of your patients’ health data as you do.

imageSmart—In the future, you’ll want a cloud storage service that is not only simple, scalable, and secure but also really smart. While today you may be looking mainly for file storage and retrieval of archived medical images, in the future you will increasingly want a services provider offering massive computational power in the cloud as well. The cloud will one day play a role in actually interpreting your images and other data with powerful, machine learning capabilities.

If you would like to learn more about taking cost and complexity out of your IT department by strategically partnering with a cloud services company that understands the unique requirements of your business, please start your search here. See also this case study showing how one hospital is saving 90 percent on storage hardware by using the cloud for medical image archiving.

Bill Crounse, MD       Senior Director, Worldwide Health            Microsoft

  • Thanks Bill.  

    This is very true.  But what most groups do not realize is that as their current Windows XP/PC infrastructure starts to buckle and whine under the strain of the latest platforms and imaging solutions --- they are looking at a very significant up front cost to upgrade their office hardware and ISPs to be able to take advantage of many of the upsides that cloud based services offer.  

    No question that cloud based servers offered us the best means possible to secure, store and scale image, EMR and communication storage needs as a practice.  However, as a medium sized private Ortho group, this has become a VERY VERY large capital investment as we also switched to a citrix based office IT  infrastructure, and fiberoptic pipe.  Furthermore, the ongoing expenses are substantial when we consider that our receivables as a practice stay the same, or perhaps drop a few % YOY.   So... net-net ... the current cloud/citrix based configuration is lean in comparison to having to scale and manage our own server farm ... but very expensive to implement and maintain going forward.  

    The next great expense trap for most private practices will occur when they capitulate to converting out of an XP/Desktop environment running through a T1.  

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