By Morris Panner, CEO, Ambra Health
It took us a few years to get here, but the cloud revolution has come to healthcare. Cloud capabilities are changing the way providers large and small interact with patients and protect and utilize their data. All of the major cloud vendors, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, have all made dramatic moves into healthcare, including providing back-end capabilities to store critical healthcare data. Although back-end storage is available, these vendors often rely on third-party vendors to provide the workflow solution on top of the data. After all, what good is having the data if you can’t manipulate it?
A question we always get is how do you navigate that landscape and what should a provider look for. First, it is important to consider that the shift in archiving is no longer just for the big players. Smaller providers are also finding incredible value in their data as they feel new pressures from patients and other physicians alike to offer innovative services around the clock.
Second, the threats to data are getting bigger and bigger. Natural disasters have cost healthcare facilities in the United States over 200 billion dollars, a number that doesn’t appear to be slowing down. It isn’t just natural disasters; the incidences of intrusion attacks on healthcare institutions were on the rise in 2018, too.
Another addition to this already complex environment is ever growing amounts of data. Stanford Medicine predicted that by 2020 the volume of new data from healthcare information systems and imaging modalities would grow to more than 2,315 exabytes (one exabyte = one million terabytes). This data can be used for AI projects or enabling other applications that make patient experiences better, but it must be easily accessible and stored safely.
The message is clear; the days of building out onsite storage infrastructure are a thing of the past. The ability to reliably retrieve a backup copy of information that might be otherwise lost due to hardware/software or network failures is no longer just good practice but a federally mandated requirement.
Cloud VNA Acts as a Solution
The cloud VNA is a popular approach so that even if physical hardware is damaged, the data remains secure at an off-site server with its own additional redundancies. VNAs act as a central repository for housing images from a variety of systems. Cloud VNAs take this a step further and allow the connection of other systems, like EHRs, to make it simple to transfer and view studies, integrate priors, and create a holistic patient health record.
Searching for a Vendor
Workflow: The most important question to ask is whether the vendor provides the agile tools to be able to search and manipulate stored data. We refer to this as workflow tools, and it makes all the difference as to whether you have a truly operational data repository. Sit down and review your own workflow needs and consider not just clinical practice but also research needs.
Security: Once HIPAA compliance has been established the next key questions to ask centers around redundancy. A vendor should have a second off-site copy of imaging studies in case of the rare event of a data center failure. Additionally, facilities should ask where the data center is located and if it has appropriate security and screening features.
Image retention policies: Implementing image retention policies is often a manual process, with the risk of images slipping through the cracks. Review a vendor’s lifecycle management capabilities to see if rule-based automation is possible to automate the removal of images from the system based on any set of specified set of administrator-configurable criteria.
Data Migration (in and out!): The fear of migrating thousands if not millions of imaging studies prevents many facilities from making an active change in their disaster recovery strategy. Consider that a cloud vendor can provide a complete range of consultative migration approaches, from moving an entire library, to a phased migration. With elastic cloud architecture, the VNA accommodates ever increasing image volumes, systems, users, and organizations without the need to worry about provisioning more infrastructure and resources.
Cloud VNA is a powerful solution and will drive enhanced clinical and operational benefits for years to come.