IT managers call for vendor-neutral PACS technology

Interoperability the main priority for UK healthcare managers, survey reveals

Healthcare IT managers in the UK are appealing to suppliers to increase the availability of vendor-neutral systems to enable more cost-effective, joined-up care.

BridgeHead Software has published its second annual healthcare data management survey, which quizzed technology managers at hospitals around the world.

And the results reveal an unmet need for systems and solutions that can be easily integrated with existing infrastructure, regardless of the make and model.

Hospitals are awakening to the wide variety of financial and technological benefits they can obtain simply by incorporating a fully-independent, vendor-neutral archive into their IT environments

In particular, hospitals want more control over the storage and management of medical image data, which is seen as the top cause of healthcare information growth.

According to the results, 51% of respondents worldwide said their organisations would likely require their next PACS application to be compatible with a third-party, vendor-neutral archive (VNA) for the storage of digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM) images. A total of 16% said their organisations would not even consider purchasing a PACS application that was incompatible with a third-party VNA.

In the UK, the importance of vendor neutrality was even more pronounced, with 66% saying they would require their next PACS to be compatible and 25% refusing to purchase systems that were not.

"Hospitals are awakening to the wide variety of financial and technological benefits they can obtain simply by incorporating a fully-independent, vendor-neutral archive into their IT environments," said Jim Beagle, chief executive of BridgeHead Software.

But he claimed there was still some confusion as to what a VNA actually is. This has led to the publication by BridgeHead Software of a white paper entitled What Should the NHS Expect from Vendor Neutral Archiving? .

Beagle told BBH : “It’s not just about managing medical images: VNAs help hospitals to improve data access and interoperability across all of their systems, including non-DICOM images, email, scanned patient documents, and more. VNAs can also help hospitals take back ownership of their data, allowing them to optimise use of their existing storage infrastructure and systems investments, reducing redundancy and often delaying expensive storage refreshes until they are truly needed."

As healthcare organisations take advantage of newer imaging technologies, so the upsurge in medical image data continues. Now is the time for hospitals to implement a robust data management strategy to future-proof against the inevitable, exponential data growth that will ensue

The research shows medical image studies, such as X-rays, MRIs and ultrasounds, are the main driver of hospital data growth, with a majority of 63% of respondents citing PACS as the top cause for their bulging data volumes. And, in the UK, an overwhelming 70% of respondents cited PACS as a main cause of data growth. These figures echo the results from the 2010 survey, where 65% of global respondents cited PACS as one of the main data growth drivers.

"PACS applications, which were initially focused primarily on radiology, are increasingly being applied to other hospital departments," said Beagle.

"Because of the ever-widening scope of PACS technologies, the rate of data growth in imaging outside of radiology is actually much faster than in radiology itself, particularly in areas like digital pathology. As healthcare organisations take advantage of newer imaging technologies, so the upsurge in medical image data continues. Now is the time for hospitals to implement a robust data management strategy to future-proof against the inevitable, exponential data growth that will ensue."

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • 37% cited budget/costs of migration to new PACS as the main barrier to switching from one system to another (59% in the UK)
  • 16% cited data migration issues/access to legacy PACS data as the main barrier to switching PACS (16% in the UK)
  • 22% said they planned to move to a new PACS within the next two years (52% in the UK)
  • 32% said their organisations planned to move to a new PACS within the next five years (67% in the UK)

Click here to see the full report

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