exceed available IT budgets. It is imperative that healthcare IT teams begin strategic planning in the near future in order to take control of healthcare data in their environments. Healthcare data growth, in itself, is no real surprise. So why is the challenge of managing these large volumes of healthcare data suddenly coming to light? T ere are two predominant trends that may off er an explanation: 1. Hospitals’ move toward paperless systems: These projects are incentivized by government policy (such as ARRA and HITECH in the U.S.) and represent a major shift in most hospital environments. Both new and legacy patient records are being converted to digital form, which has ballooned data capture in healthcare environments.
2. T e massive increase in clinical images: An increasing number of clinical modalities are outputting a greater volume of medical images (based on the DICOM stan- dard) in more frequent intervals and at higher fi delities. T ese images represent approximately 70 percent of a hospital’s total data footprint, according to a recent BridgeHead whitepaper.
Unquestionably, the conversion to digital information
off ers hospitals huge potential in the improved quality, ef- fi ciency and eff ectiveness of patient care delivery. However, for healthcare IT professionals, the situation is a challenging one, as it pertains to data and storage management. T erefore, new approaches are needed that can protect all healthcare data in a cost-effi cient manner while ensuring the workfl ow and availability of healthcare applications.
Breaking down the data silos Experts agree that it is imperative that healthcare IT teams
fi nd new ways to streamline access to patient data. With new requirements stemming from meeting federal initiatives tied to meaningful-use Stage 2 (MU2), interoperability and speedier access to patient data are critical for hospitals to achieve com- pliance. Jeanine Banks, GE general manager of global market- ing for specialty solutions, recently noted that the industry is moving toward standardizing data for the sake of interoper- ability between diff erent vendor EHR systems. Meaningful use and more effi cient workfl ows in general are driving these technology initiatives that, at the same time, must promote HIPAA compliance. Unfortunately, the signifi cant growth in healthcare data has made it diffi cult for some institutions to meet such requirements. First, with massive data volumes comes the implied need
for massive storage capacity. Storage silos found across hospital department systems have often meant poor utilization and higher pricing of individual storage systems. Often under management by clinical teams, these systems have suff ered from the rapid growth of department data and are reaching critical breaking points. Increasingly, centralized healthcare IT teams are being asked to assume responsibility for these siloed applica- tions, along with the data storage that supports them. While increasing the healthcare IT burden, the opportunity is that
centralized teams with expertise in tiered storage management can help to reduce the cost burden on hospitals. Shared use of application data is also expected as a benefi t for centralizing data management in these environments. Centralized data is also far easier to manage through its entire lifecycle, which includes adherence to long-term retention of patient data. IT professionals are increasingly assuming responsibility for maintaining PACS applications that generate DICOM images. T is image data cannot be protected using the tra- ditional back-up methods, with which most IT professionals are familiar. T e DICOM images are too large to be backed up in available windows. Also, the recovery methods enabled by traditional backup take too long to support the availability requirements of clinical radiologists. What’s required is a new, healthcare-integrated approach to clinical data protection for these applications.
Finding a new approach By identifying and categorizing healthcare data as to whether it is dynamic (frequently accessed and/or changed) or static (where it will not change and is unlikely to be ac- cessed after 90 days), as well as understanding the process by which dynamic data becomes static over time (and thereby has a limited useful lifespan – often for the duration of patient treatment), hospitals can employ diff erent strategies to ensure the smooth, effi cient and eff ective security, protection and ongoing management of their data. Hospitals can utilize the strengths of archiving, in conjunction with traditional back-up techniques, to assist in eliminating storage silos, optimizing storage assets, enabling data interoperability, ensuring full data protection and providing a rapid return on investment – all in a bid to put healthcare IT professionals back in control of their data and storage. With the elimination of departmental storage silos, IT can begin the process of optimizing the storage assets of the entire organization. Economies of scale take eff ect as expensive tier-1 storage can be consolidated and leveraged by all of the applications that require it. Under the central management of IT, subsequent storage tiers can be deployed in a manner that maximizes their eff ectiveness by matching the value of the data to the underlying performance characteristics and availability of the storage on which it resides. With the aid of a central storage-management framework that cuts across applications and vendors, IT can repurpose – rather than eliminate – aging storage assets, thus freeing departmental budgets for other IT initiatives. When the time does come to retire existing stor- age assets and migrate data to new platforms, IT can perform these migrations seamlessly, without impact to end-users or applications. In healthcare, consolidating the physical management of storage is only part of the benefi t. Along with storage silos come data silos, which often hinder interoperability of systems. Without someone driving a strategic vision for enterprise-wide content access and sharing, healthcare information remains
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