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Demystifying Data Storage for Enterprise Imaging

Demystifying Data Storage for Enterprise Imaging

Modern technological advances have transformed practically every aspect of the professional world. For the medical industry, one of the most impactful changes has been the advent of enterprise imaging.

Enterprise imaging platforms have helped medical professionals and care providers deal with the increasing demands they face. This has improved their ability to provide more personalized and value-based care while simultaneously navigating complex technical processes.

Enterprise imaging platforms have led to many improvements, but they've also created some challenges for medical organizations struggling to keep up with the demands they place on infrastructure. One of the critical components of any strong enterprise imaging strategy is efficiently handling the massive flood of data created on a daily basis.

So what exactly is enterprise imaging? What challenges has it created for healthcare organizations? And why will flash storage be critical for overcoming them? In this article, we'll answer these questions and more as we dive into the world of data storage for enterprise imaging.

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What is Enterprise Imaging?

Enterprise imaging refers to a set of workflows, initiatives, and strategies that are implemented throughout healthcare enterprises. Enterprise imaging makes it easier to capture, manage, store, distribute, and analyze patient data from various sources to provide a more detailed view into a patient's electronic health record (EHR). It's allowed for real-time image analysis, which has helped accelerate clinical decision-making, and ultimately, delivering better patient care.

Charting the Evolution of Enterprise Imaging

The story of enterprise imaging begins with the creation of the picture archiving and communication system (PACS) in 1979. PACS was a major breakthrough in the medical industry because it allowed healthcare professionals to digitally store and transfer images like X-rays and clinical reports. PACS eliminated the need to manually transport images.

While innovative, PACS was cumbersome to use and difficult to integrate with existing systems. For example, each department in a hospital could set up its own PACS, but there was no standardized way to transfer data between them within the hospital or with organizations outside of it. A PACS was also quite expensive. 

As the medical industry entered the digital revolution of the 1990s, it soon became clear that a more universal solution for digital imaging would be needed. That’s when Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) entered the scene.

DICOM is a set of international standards for the storage, exchange, and communication of digital medical images and other health data. Standardized file formats, transfer protocols, and imaging workflows supercharged collaboration across departments and organizations in the medical community. It also fueled much of the innovation in enterprise imaging for the next decade.

Eventually, vendor-neutral archives (VNAs) and cloud-based data archives entered the scene. These enabled IT staff in healthcare organizations to manage data instead of radiologists or other individual departments.

VNAs also help address interoperability issues, which is the ability for health information systems to communicate with each other. However, interoperability continues to be an issue that plagues many hospitals and obstructs their ability to deliver healthcare efficiently and effectively.

The current state of EI is now a mixture of PACS, VNAs, and cloud-based data archives.

Big Data creates Big Challenges for EI Infrastructure

Despite minor improvements in enterprise imaging over the years, it's still a challenge for many healthcare professionals to properly assess, display, and share large files. This problem will get worse as files continue to get bigger.

To shed some light on exactly how much storage space is needed for a functioning enterprise imaging strategy, consider the Mayo Clinic, a large healthcare system based in Minnesota. It had more than 50 terabytes of radiology data in a single day. Its VNA received more than 90 terabytes of non-radiology data over the last few years.

As the field of digital pathology continues to grow and produce increasingly larger data sets, healthcare organizations are going to have to find more efficient ways to store, visualize, and interact with their data to put it to good use.

These are among the many pressures facing healthcare organizations. On-premises hard-drive technology can no longer meet the ever-growing demands of big data. It's time enterprise imaging storage solutions got an upgrade.

The Solution for Overwhelming Amounts of Data? Flash Storage

Switching from spinning disks to flash drives delivers a massive boost in performance, parallelism, and speed. With extremely low latency connections, all-flash storage arrays improve data mobility across storage environments—a critical detail for enterprise imaging informatics applications.

When high-resolution images load faster, researchers, radiologists, and other medical professionals can extract the actionable insights they need to deliver value-based care faster.

How Pure brings a Modern Data Experience™ to Enterprise Imaging

Having a reliable storage architecture is critical for helping your organization meet data retention guidelines, recover critical data in the event of an outage, and enhance workflows. On top of providing reliable performance, storage for an enterprise imaging solution should offer agility, flexibility, and regular updates without compromising availability.

Pure Storage® delivers these benefits and more for healthcare organizations. Our all-flash enterprise imaging storage solution is capable of handling tens of thousands of concurrent requests, a necessity as digital medical data grows from terabyte scale to petabyte scale.

Our enterprise imaging storage solution also makes 3D rendering possible on any device with a level of performance that's unprecedented in the industry. Physicians and patients alike can access images on demand, which helps create a more personal healthcare experience.

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