Rapid Growth Of Medical Imaging Creates Challenges For Healthcare Bandwidth Requirements
Medical imaging studies, as part of a patient’s historical records, are subject to long-term security, integrity, and availability regulations defined by governing bodies. Examples include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States and the Medical Device Directive (MDD) in the European Union. However, the change from film to digitized storage has created a new set of challenges and requirements.
Digital mammography and multidetector computed tomography (CT), coupled with post-processing techniques such as 3D and CAD, enable medical imaging to be used more extensively for diagnosis, not only in radiology but also in other departments such as cardiology. Dynamic studies using positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) enable clinicians to image diseases and to increase the effectiveness of resulting therapies. These technologies enable medical imaging to be included in protocols for a wider class of clinical applications and, in some cases, replace invasive (and risky) diagnostic procedures.
The growing adoption rate of these medical imaging technologies is causing an exponential and often hard-to-predict increase in the volume of images that must be stored. The magnitude of the increasing storage requirements for medical providers is often tens to hundreds of terabytes per year. This growth makes it difficult for IT managers to ensure adequate storage capacity. These challenges also highlight the need for affordable yet flexible storage systems that enable growth on-demand. Information access and business continuity needs must be met from the provider’s perspective, while addressing the stringent regulatory requirements for data privacy and protection.
The mergers and consolidations that are so common in healthcare today have resulted in IT environments that most often do not work well together. Currentapplication architectures as well as the slow movement of the industry towards interoperability and the limited adoption of industry standards have created a utilization, management and access problem that is common to most providers.
The current healthcare infrastructure can best be described as complex, inflexible and inefficient. As a result, applications that depend on it are slow, exhibit bottlenecks, suffer unacceptable levels of application downtime due to single points, and require unnecessary amounts of dedicated resources. Managing this hybrid infrastructure demands expertise for each type of application and manufacturer at multiple levels, as well as resources to manage the environment across each storage platform. Infrastructure scaling and upgrades prove to be very costly and difficult due to the time, money and people required to perform them.
As a result of these inefficiencies, healthcare IT resources are severely underutilized with storage utilization running at between 15% and 30% over a 24-hour period.
A potential fix for these issues is use of a framework for the creation of an enterprisewide, grid-based virtual medical image storage system designed to enable healthcare organizations to share data across distributed sites. These solutions are meant to be complementary to PACS applications and extend the capabilities of these systems across a wide area network.
Many providers have implemented multiple PACS solutions across many geographies, each with its own storage environment. Each PACS implementation drives its own requirements for storage and administration. The application of grid technology enables the sharing of storage and allows the logical separation of the application from the underlying storage infrastructure. This means that multiple systems can share storage resources wherever they are available. Additionally, through their local applications, users can access remote images populated by other systems on the grid. Key benefits include higher utilization of existing storage investments, the migration from storage silos to grid-enabled storage pools that can be made available to all applications, and the ability for IT departments to administer the grid centrally from a single location.
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