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● Data Storage/Data Management Critical to care

A comprehensive approach to data management in a hospital environment. By Jim Beagle


ospital data is some of the most critical data to manage, yet it’s unwieldy due to its complex- ity and volume. Data growth in hospitals has escalated in recent years, accelerated by the

move to eliminate paper and convert patient records into electronic fi les. Government mandates, including meaning- ful use and HIPAA/HITECH, have increased the urgency of this conversion as organizations seek to enable more benefi ts in patient care from the use of electronic data. T ey also hope to gain cost-savings advantages from centralized management of data. In practice, however, the complexity of hospital data systems presents some unique challenges and constraints, which tend to undermine these benefi ts. T is combination of factors has brought health IT organizations under increasing pressure to fi nd better methods for data management that fi t the unique requirements of healthcare environments. T e data found in the electronic healthcare record (EHR) today spans many types, including data from healthcare information systems (HIS), radiologic systems (RIS) such as picture archiving and communication system (PACS) imaging applications, structured and unstructured fi les, and scanned documents. Even back-offi ce application data, such as email messages, are part of the patient record and must be managed as such. A better method for data management in hospitals, therefore, must be one that enables management of all types of hospital data.

The key requirements of hospital applications in data management Each hospital application has unique requirements for

data availability and performance workfl ow, which must be considered when selecting a data-management approach. In the past, many hospital applications – notably PACS applications – tended to operate on their own. T is allowed departments to manage data for their particular application in isolation. However, the data generated by department-level applications has grown to the point that this approach is no longer practical. A recent trend is for healthcare IT to start

12 June 2013

Jim Beagle is president and CEO, BridgeHead Software. For more on

BridgeHead Software: www.rsleads. com/306ht-201

to transition under central management what had previously been isolated, departmental applications. T e intention of centralizing management is in part to obtain cost advantages in storage. In addition, more mature data-management approaches are possible. However, fi nding an approach to data management that can unify storage and data while still supporting the unique requirement of each type of hospital application is a tough challenge for most teams. T e importance of ensuring that the data-management

approach selected is appropriate for each of the hospital ap- plications must not be underestimated. T e productivity of clinicians depends on application performance and workfl ow. Also, clinicians cannot tolerate any loss of clinical data nor extended recovery periods, as they risk patient care. A suffi cient approach to healthcare data management must off er methods for data protection – purpose-built to integrate with individual hospital applications, yet unifi ed to operate in concert across a centralized storage environment.

Sustained data growth adds unsustainable cost and administrative burden in hospital environments T e move to digital information as a replacement for paper

is responsible for the creation of terabytes of new data every year at healthcare organizations of all sizes. A typical com- munity hospital in 2013, for example, has multiple terabytes of data under management. T is fi gure is expected to increase exponentially from year to year. All of this data not only costs more to store, it also takes

more time to manage than traditional approaches allow. Tradi- tional backup on its own is no longer possible to accomplish in available windows. Even when data can be protected, recovery times take too long to be tolerated and data retention is hard or impossible to manage. Lacking better alternatives, many health IT organizations

have resorted to short-term tactical placement of more storage systems – to at least get the data stored – and have delayed strategic decisions on better approaches to data management. However, this short-term approach is not sustainable: At some point in the near future, the increasing cost of storage will


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