Stage 2 Meaningful Use Will Make Medical Image Archiving in the Cloud a Necessity

Mitchell Goldburgh
Mitchell Goldburgh

Guest post by Mitchell Goldburgh, cloud clinical archive product manager, Dell.

Stage 2 meaningful use criteria require providers to make diagnostic reports and associated images accessible through a certified electronic health record. That presents a difficult hurdle for many hospitals, especially community hospitals that are not connected to a large health system. And with the plethora of EHRs in use across healthcare, the task may be difficult for some multi-hospital systems.

This is a watershed moment for many imaging practices, and Stage 2 requirements may be the factor that sends most imaging files to a vendor-neutral archive (VNA).

Knowing that Stage 2 will require facilities to integrate their medical images with EHRs, the best VNA providers have in place automated tools that can integrate these files with all of the major EHRs and with many of the smaller EHR vendors. The value of a VNA comes from local and remote content brought to EHRs with a consistent presentation of results and images at the point of clinical care. VNA solutions offer a global viewer with a common toolset to navigate documents and imaging content, thus simplifying the access and freeing users from the need to learn multiple application navigations.

As technology in imaging increases the complexity of data, the presentation of information consistently for non-imaging specialists within the accountable care group becomes crucial to “customer” satisfaction with the imaging services. But VNA software is only a part of the solution – an integrated model that simplifies delivery of content can best be achieved with a service delivery model enabled with cloud content management.

Archiving-as-a-service is the model for the future

So what does this model entail? A good vendor-neutral archiving solution enters the scenario once a clinical exam is reported. At that point, the job of the PACS is done. The exam file is transmitted to an on-site server (supported by your archiving service provider) that transforms it into a vendor-neutral format. Current files are stored on site for fast access and also uploaded to a secure cloud platform. At this point content notification occurs, informing external systems that the report and clinical imaging data are available. In this model clinicians can view content anywhere, from any device, either as a stand-alone application from the VNA or through the web-enabled EHR accessing the VNA.

VNA as a hybrid cloud delivery model provides other benefits. First and foremost, you have an off-site copy of data in application-neutral format for disaster recovery and access outside of the primary application. A strong archiving solution also maintains a high-powered platform that allows for efficient workflows, provides best-in-breed security and often includes dose monitoring, benchmarking of various metrics against similar facilities nationwide and even an analytics platform that you can use for business intelligence and performance improvement. Many IT departments are capable of producing all those elements. But the requisite technology acquisition, management and upkeep makes this path expensive when compared to the cost of outsourcing these functions to a specialized archiving service. That’s because the archiving vendor can spread these costs over billions of images and hundreds of customers, which keeps each customer’s costs low.

Another big reason for outsourcing medical image archiving with cloud computing capacity is that it empowers your IT department to pursue more strategic initiatives. Healthcare is going through significant changes, requiring serious strategic IT planning. Outsourcing your archiving function will give the IT department more resources to apply to this task.

Affordability comes with these advanced capabilities

With the increased use of capitation and outcomes-based reimbursement models, diagnostic services such as radiology become a cost center for hospitals, not a profit center. In addition to providing you with advanced capabilities, outsourcing your archiving infrastructure can significantly lower your costs, especially if you factor in the need for upgrades to applications and infrastructure. If you use a fee-per-study payment structure, your capital investments will be insignificant. And your costs will track with your workload, relieving IT of the need to predict how much storage and computing you will need and when you need to provision it. Too often, facilities have unused capacity sitting idle. This is expensive and running out of storage is a disaster, so over-provisioning is common.

Cloud clinical archiving services integrated with on-site clinical applications make sense now, and as healthcare becomes more connected among providers, patients and caregivers, it will be the best option for most imaging practices.

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