Medical imaging moves to the cloud

Call it coincidence, or perhaps confirmation of a trend. HealthLeaders Media published a story about web-based PACS just as the massive, annual Radiological Society of North America expo got underway in Chicago.

Following up on a previous piece that focused on PACS strategies at two large health systems, HealthLeaders checked in with Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, N.H., to find out what a small, community hospital is doing in imaging informatics. Since 2007, that hospital has used a web-based system from Boston-based Amicas to tie together imaging from other hospitals that forward images to Day Memorial. The hosted strategy helps integrate disparate radiology information systems into a single PACS and ensure continuity in case of an outage or disaster situation.

Well, clearly Day Memorial was onto something. It took exactly half an hour in the sprawling McCormick Place exhibit hall to figure out a major theme of RSNA 2009: cloud radiology. Even with the high bandwidth and storage requirements of imaging, cloud computing was the hot topic at this year's RSNA. "It's inherently scaleable and very cost-effective," explained Nancy Koenig, president of Merge Fusion, the imaging division of Merge Healthcare, Milwaukee.

Indeed, Merge debuted its cloud-based RIS, PACS and disaster-recovery product at RSNA by announcing its first customer, Prestige Imaging of Dallas. Merge was not alone. An Irvine, Calif.-based vendor, Candelis, debuted its cloud offering (.pdf) last week, as did San Francisco-based Medweb, Health Data Management reports. Imaging Economics, a publication that follows the radiology business a whole lot more closely than any Fierce title, named cloud computing as one of the trends to watch at RSNA.

The whole healthcare IT industry is moving toward the software-as-a-service model, so I'm thinking cloud imaging is here to stay. - Neil

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