Once limited to the radiology department at the end of the hall, today, more than 40 different healthcare service areas contribute to the terabytes of new medical imaging data produced every day. From widespread use of digital photography for documentation, to point-of-care ultrasound and scope imaging, these increasingly complex images enable faster, better patient outcomes, but also create a significant data management burden. Moreover, because clinicians rely on these images for diagnosis and treatment they must be able to access these images and share them quickly and easily.
Right now, storing and sharing images isn’t as easy as it should be – or could be. But that’s changing quickly. According to Kim Garriott from Logicalis and NetApp’s Tony Turner, organizations are now implementing comprehensive imaging strategies to more efficiently store, move and manage medical images, improving healthcare in three significant ways.
1. Making medicine safer – The opportunity for early detection of masses, tumors or other markers of disease are already a recognized benefit of medical imaging advancements. But the role imaging has in patient health and safety doesn’t stop there.
Having access to a patient’s medical imaging history, regardless of acquisition source, has been show to reduce redundant imaging, reducing radiation exposure for the patient.
Ultrasound guidance means the first stick is the right stick. Today, the intensivist in the ICU can visually ensure that the line is being placed correctly in the artery. And anesthesiologists doing a spinal nerve block have real-time visibility that the needle is hitting its mark, as well as the orthopedist doing a joint health assessment.
2. Making compliance easier – Healthcare organizations are required to retain complete copies of images both on and offsite. Each state’s Department of Health regulates the how long images must be retained. For example, most states require that images of adult patients be retained for seven years post exam. However, mammography images must be retained for 30 years and OSHA requires some images to be retained for the lifetime of the patient.
Despite those long-term retention requirements studies show that after 60 days the likelihood that an image will be used again by a clinician is less than 10 percent. “As you move out in time, that percentage goes even further down. However, regulations require you to keep it, so it just sits out there and just spins on disk,” Turner shared. The drive for a document retention and data governance strategy becomes clear. “We need to be looking at strategies that move those images from spinning disks to tier two or three storage and ultimately a tier four storage for that long-term archival need.” With a proactive strategy in place, institutions achieve appropriate storage tiering and the efficiencies that come with it, while still remaining fully in compliance.
3. Helping establish data security and governance – The proliferation of smartphones and tablets has led many a patient, or parent of a patient, to send an image of an injury, a suspicious mole, a rash, or the like, to a physician. While this might facilitate faster diagnosis and treatment, it also creates some tricky data governance problems.
For example, if a physician has any part of a patient’s medical information on a mobile device and then takes that device home, they’ve possibly committed a HIPAA violation, regardless of whether there’s any Protected Health Information (PHI) associated with the image. “There’s a wide realm of security considerations associated with the acquisition and retention of those images, whether we are acquiring those images on mobile devices and they are backing up, unbeknownst to us, to the cloud” Garriott shared, “or whether we are acquiring ultrasound images and storing them to USB drives or CDs.” But Turner sees this as an opportunity to step up education on data security and privacy and establish a robust data governance program for the organization.
Radiology images have long been an integral part of diagnosis, treatment plans, and overall patient care. However with radical innovations in imaging technology, such as digital pathology, breast tomosynthesis, and mobile imaging at the fingertips of every clinician, healthcare organizations must adapt their systems, processes, and policies to support this tech-driven evolution.
Continuing to rely on spinning disks and operating on a siloed data management strategy will not only frustrate clinicians but likely have an impact on the organization’s bottom line. Taking the time to understand the merits of a next-generation medical imaging managing environment and building the foundations will enable a healthcare system to simplify medical image management and improve care, compliance and security today and well into the future.
Talk to a NetApp specialist to learn how a comprehensive imaging strategy with centralized storage can simplify medical image management and improve care, compliance and security at your institution.