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Thought Leaders

So much data, so little time

Healthcare storage virtualization is a fl exible architecture that can help hospitals deal with the data explosion in a cost-effective manner.

H By Tony Cotterill

ealthcare organiza- tions are in the throes of a data explosion. Government incen-

tives – such as the HITECH pro- vision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Canada Health Infoway and the European Institute for Health Re- cords – are encouraging hospitals everywhere to adopt electronic health records (EHRs). At the same time, there is an upsurge in the creation of DICOM (digital imaging and communications in medicine) data. More and more hospitals are implementing new PACS (picture archiving and com- munication systems) to support not only radiology but also other clinical disciplines, such as mam- mography, cardiology, pathology, endoscopy and ophthalmology. As a result, hospitals are find- ing it increasingly difficult and costly to manage all of this data; many are trying to plug the flow of digital information by buying more expensive disk space and parking their data on propri- etary content-addressable storage (CAS) systems.

Tony Cotterill is CEO, BridgeHead Software. For more information on BridgeHead Software solutions:

Even worse, they are not meet- ing their backup window require- ments for disaster recovery. There

6 November 2010

is simply too much data and not enough time to replicate it all. These organizations may be meet- ing the federal requirements for maintaining digital patient infor- mation, but they are failing dis- mally in their most basic obliga- tions to protect themselves – and patient care – against the event of a systems outage. And they are breaking their budgets, too.

age management platform that decouples software applications from the allocation and manage- ment of the physical storage hard- ware on which the application data resides. By separating these applications from their respective storage devices, healthcare orga- nizations have more choice, flex- ibility and control over the way data is accessed, protected and

Because it is hardware agnostic, healthcare storage virtualization architecture frees hospitals from the vendor “lock in” of proprietary content-addressable storage systems.

Why is healthcare data manage- ment so hard? Is there a way to fix this problem? To start, there are intrinsic dif- ferences between healthcare and traditional enterprise data. On a daily basis, hospitals deal with three different kinds of digital information: structured, unstruc- tured and semi-structured data. The preponderance of unstruc- tured and semi-structured data generated by PACS, and the speed at which that data multiplies, is unmatched by any other industry. By adopting a healthcare storage virtualization (HSV) architecture, hospitals can implement separate management policies for each content type and begin to get control of it.

HSV is a flexible data and stor- HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY

managed. The aim, ultimately, is to ensure optimal efficiency and cost effectiveness through better utilization of hardware resources and, more importantly, the easy, safe and reliable access, use and management of critical electronic patient data.

Because it is hardware agnostic, HSV architecture frees hospitals from the vendor “lock in” of proprietary CAS systems. It also allows hospitals to take advantage of their existing environments and only add new hardware as their budgets permit.

HSV architecture can also help resolve the thorniest issues of healthcare data and storage man- agement. From data integration and the sharing of content be- tween the various hospital infor-

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