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Conquering the complexity of storage

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   By Doug Cusick, May 2012

H05_Data Storage_HP_Doug CusickConverged medical infrastructure can increase storage capacity by improving the IT environment as whole.

Healthcare organizations face a number of challenges when it comes to managing the explosive growth of data. Increasing adoption of healthcare IT, along with greater reliance on digital imaging, puts strain on data storage capacity and IT budgets alike.  

According to IDC Health Insights’ “EMR and PACS Storage Survey” (2010), storage takes up a large percentage of overall IT budget for providers, with a significant portion of outpatient centers (50 percent) and hospitals (57 percent) allocating more than 20 percent of their IT budget to storage. Most provider data centers are also constrained in terms of power, cooling and physical capacity, but need to retain and archive medical images for prescribed periods of time.  

To address the growing concern of data storage, healthcare organizations are turning to solutions known as converged medical infrastructure (CMI) to increase storage capacity by improving their IT environment as whole. CMI is a synchronized platform of servers, imaging, printing, software, storage, networking and IT services that can help providers consolidate their infrastructure into a simplified data center with virtualized, interoperable resources that can handle multiple workloads.  

The radiology informatics (RI) group at Penn Medicine is a great example of how an organization can benefit from CMI. The RI group is responsible for managing the hardware, software and networking systems to support filmless, paperless radiology operations. The imaging network connects to approximately 150 image modalities that generate more than 25 terabytes of new imaging data annually. In addition to storing and maintaining large amounts of data, the RI group was also managing three long-term storage archives, each from a different vendor, with a separate tagging and indexing system for each archive.

The RI group members realized they needed to consolidate their long-term storage archives and upgrade to a new technology platform to respond to the expanding clinical, technical and storage requirements set forth by Penn Medicine’s radiology department. After creating a CMI environment with solutions from HP and GE Healthcare, Penn Medicine improved data retrieval speeds, enhanced access to medical images, simplified disaster recovery and improved the scalability of their system. They also reduced multiple costs associated with support, data conversion, downtime and their facility.

In order to achieve the same level of success as Penn Medicine, healthcare organizations should consider implementing a CMI using the following guidelines:

  • Plan carefully. Before attempting to convert an IT environment with multiple, poorly integrated components, develop a practical migration plan that includes time for rigorous testing.
  • Weigh the costs/benefits of different data migration strategies. Data migration strategies for moving to an enterprise archive can include a gradual transition, complete transition or a hybrid combination of the two with different approaches to legacy data handling. These approaches each have their own advantages and disadvantages and should be chosen to suit the available timeframe, resources and state of the existing infrastructure. The implementation for Penn Medicine, for example, was executed in a period of two weeks, which included training for personnel, hardware and software setup and system testing.
  • Partner with vendors committed to the healthcare industry. Healthcare providers are under intense pressure by employers, payers, policymakers and legislation to fundamentally change how they organize themselves, deliver services and get paid. Critical to the successful deployment of a CMI is selecting partners who are focused on the healthcare market and understand the unique marketplace dynamics.

As the healthcare industry evolves into a paperless industry, storage requirements will continue to grow. Organizations will be forced to revisit their infrastructure to ensure they will be able to handle the increase. Penn Medicine had a plan and took the necessary steps to solve its problem with storage. Following the tips above will give your organization a head start in implementing a converged medical infrastructure to suit your needs.

About the author

Doug Cusick is VP and GM, health and life sciences, HP. For more on HP, click here.


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