Healthcare systems are generating more patient data than ever before. With the progression of diseases, the “data footprint” of each patient increases over time, thereby increasing the overall amount of data, which the appropriate bodies (mostly health care providers) must manage.
Large amounts of data are inherently difficult to manage, but an abundance of data also means that better analytic results can be derived, which is necessary to drive lower cost and better patient outcomes. Consequently, there is a huge demand for data management platforms in healthcare and allied industries for efficiently storing, retrieving, consolidating, and displaying data.
A Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) is an integral component of modern health data management. A VNA is a storage solution software that can store images, documents, and other clinically relevant files in a standard format with a standard interface.
Data stored in a VNA can be freely accessed by other systems, regardless of those systems’ manufacturers. This interoperability is a hallmark of any VNA system. The term “Neutral” in the acronym VNA has huge implications, as it makes the data stored in VNA, platform-independent. VNAs make it easier to share data across the healthcare system, facilitating communication between departments. They enable imaging clinicians to use software that integrates images with the EHR, in order to help make better-informed diagnoses.
A VNA can also help make data more secure. VNAs that use cloud-based storage can offer better recovery options than a local-only solution. Even if the local files are corrupted or destroyed, the data remains intact in a secure location through a cloud server.
Another hidden advantage of VNAs is the lowering of administrative costs. Fewer systems and fewer points of access mean less overhead for the IT department. And there is no need to migrate data when systems are updated or replaced, a procedure that can be resource-intensive. VNAs potentially offer lower storage costs, as compared to separate PACS systems, throughout the healthcare system as well. VNAs can use information lifecycle management applications to automatically shift older data to less expensive long-term storage, keeping only the most used data on higher-cost quick-access media.
Implementing a VNA is a major shift in a healthcare system’s operating procedures. This shift can uncover a multitude of opportunities to increase efficiency, streamline workflows, and lower costs.
Modern diagnostic practices generate an enormous amount of pictures and pictorial data. PACS stands for Picture Archive and Communication System. The main purpose of PACS is to simplify the management of images related to patient monitoring throughout the treatment and recovery. Modern radiology practices involve digital imaging. Therefore, for the purpose of interoperability, a standard is required, which is identified by all the stakeholders and is accepted as a norm.
The case in point is DICOM, which stands for Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine. PACS that adhere to DICOM standards are better suited to accommodate digital image data generated through medical devices procured from different vendors. In other words, DICOM-compliant PACS have better interoperability and a wider coverage for storing and processing different types of digital images generated through varied medical procedures.
The conventional advantages of PACS include duplication removal, quick access of patients’ images and reports, remote sharing of patient’s data and reports within an organization or to other organizations, and the establishment of chronology in patients’ radiology results, in order to facilitate comparison with previous studies on same or other patients.
BEST ENTERPRISE IMAGING STRATEGY: WHAT SUITS YOUR NEEDS
With a multitude of vendors offering enterprise image management systems, it becomes difficult to make the best choice. Each organization is different in terms of organization hierarchy, as well as the type of network used for communication and financial constraints. Consequently, the requirements for enterprise imaging solutions for each one of these will be different, and no one vendor alone can satisfy all of these demands.
GE Healthcare and Philips offer some of the most exciting PACS solutions. These two vendors have a unique distinction of having a global clientele and providing enterprise archive-centric strategies. An enterprise archive refers to long-term storage for managing and collecting data from multiple imaging departments.
If organization’s needs are more VNA-centric, then vendors with exclusive VNA expertise should be considered. An example of a VNA-centric expert would be Agfa. Agfa provides VNA solutions at the enterprise level for handling both DICOM and non-DICOM data.
Irrespective of the size of one’s facility or a number of patients one has contact with, you need to make image storage a necessity, because physicians require a seamless access to them. As a thumb rule, it is imperative to say that any large organization with dedicated departments for various diagnostic imaging (or at least a dedicated radiology department) should have a PACS system in place. If financial constraints are not in place, then a hybrid system incorporating both VNA and PACS should be used for cloud-based storage. Hybrid systems with cloud-based storage are considered to be one of the most efficient modalities in current enterprise imaging management.