Medical Imaging Needs More Speedy, Stable, and Secure Data Infrastructure to Produce Life-Saving Insights

By Josh Otten, director of IT and solutions engineering, Adventist Healthcare.

Artificial intelligence (AI) applications are making waves across industries. But in healthcare, we frequently find ourselves fighting against being left behind when it comes to new technology adoption. While the field inherently necessitates more caution when implementing emerging technologies into workflows that impact patient outcomes and human lives, AI is proving to be beneficial in offloading administrative, repetitive, and easily manageable tasks from an overburdened healthcare workforce.

When it comes to medical imaging, AI applications are accelerating time to diagnoses and improving accuracy by going much further than any human can. AI-driven insights and machine learning capabilities are able to mine hundreds of body scans in a matter of minutes for differences that the human eye can miss. With these new applications of AI in medical imaging, there is the potential for hospitals and health systems to detect problems earlier, track patients through their care journey more accurately, and offer more lifesaving treatment to patients at the time they need it.

The storage and retrieval of digital images is an integral component of any digital imaging system. A picture archiving and communication system (PACS) turns data into actionable insights by displaying, storing, and retrieving important imaging data used for the diagnosis and treatment of complex conditions. A PACS can also ensure long-term data retention and reduce physical storage needs, offering substantial cost savings, when they are running on the right system and platform that optimizes performance.

This means that seamless digital imaging processing systems are paramount to patient and provider success. When running on a platform or service that might slow down a PACS, providers are losing valuable time and patient outcomes may be impacted. Health systems are then left scrambling for something better, which in this case can mean the difference between life and death for patients with complex conditions.

The Golden Hour of Critical Care Is Impacted by Slow Operating Systems

Founded in 1907, Adventist Healthcare is one of the longest-serving healthcare systems in Maryland and delivers comprehensive care at over 50 locations across the Washington D.C. area. Adventist Healthcare delivers high-quality care across specialties but is primarily known for its expertise in cardiology, maternity, orthopedics, and mental health.

Like most health systems, we at Adventist have been trying to keep pace with the digitization of our industry and the fast-paced adoption of emerging tech, while remaining stable and scalable to meet organizational goals and patient needs. We were facing challenges that were delaying diagnoses, adding to physician workloads, and leaving patient information not as secure as it could be. Our life-saving services, including acute-care hospitals, primary care and imaging centers, home health services and more, could not be left up to chance– so we looked at strategic tech investments and partnerships to advance our operations and ensure that we are meeting the needs of patients and providers across the Maryland and D.C. region.

In an environment where every second matters, the underlying technology supporting critical healthcare systems must keep pace with growth. Our PACS and the storage needed to keep it operational and insightful directly influence our ability to save lives. For instance, when it comes to heart attack and stroke diagnoses and recovery, the ability to pull up prior patient images to make quick comparisons within the “golden hour” of an episode greatly increases the chance of patient recovery. When the storage behind our PACS began to experience performance issues, we had to look for solutions to leverage in order to gain speed, stability, and security, while cutting costs and complexity from our current data storage infrastructure to allow for better operations and room for business growth.

Investing in Tech Sped Up Time to Patient Insights, Accuracy, and Data Security

Our first objective was to speed up our time to insight and diagnoses through strategic tech investments and partnerships. When the cache started experiencing errors, it created confusion. We needed to replace the cache storage for radiology and cardiology PACS with something more agile to bring speed and stability back to our lifesaving PACS environment. With imaging data and workflows supported by fast, reliable, and scalable storage, our medical staff across our 50 locations were able to access patient images without disruption with quickness and security in mind. We were able to accelerate radiology workflows to treat patients in emergencies and ensure each patient was getting the right care at the right time, especially during critical periods.

Next, we needed to address the fact that our lean IT team had no bandwidth to drive growth and add to their workloads; they needed something that would help improve storage speed, stability, and power without the management overhead. The constant risk of cyberthreats was a shadow looming over us, like every other health system trying to avoid becoming one of many that get compromised every year. We needed fast, stable, and secure data backups and found this in our strategic partnership and investment in Pure Storage solutions.

Through our strategic approach, we were able to provide visibility across all arrays and gain the insight and flexibility to manage recovery time objectives, drive costs down by eliminating downtime that used to disrupt care continuity, and deliver a data protection strategy that gave us the ability to secure and restore our data from backups quickly for continuous patient care in case of cyber attack. We have also experienced a roughly 15-20% increase in speed, which can be critically important to clinical workflows where time is of the essence. This directly contributes to the reliability of care that our patients experience in our care settings.

As we move into 2024, hospitals and health systems need to start leaning on the available solutions that best align with their strategic and clinical objectives to ensure that we are not left behind in the wave of healthcare digitization and that patients receive lifesaving, timely care. We have an opportunity and a duty to inform our efforts in IT and health tech decisions and bring agility to care and workflows to meet the growing needs of our patients and address the issues we face now and will face in the coming years.

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