Medical Imaging Archives

As the demand and usage for medical imaging services continues to grow at a rate of 40% annually, medical providers must begin to explore new storage solutions to replace the limited methods currently in use. How can the medical industry handle the billions of additional images that are expected to be produced in the upcoming years?

To learn more about the benefits and future of medical image archiving, checkout the infographic below created by Adventist University’s Online Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Sciences.

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Why are Medical Images Stored?

Every year, more than 600 million medical imaging procedures are performed worldwide. Hospitals and medical facilities are legally responsible for storing the images created during these procedures for a period of seven years, resulting in billions of images requiring storage and safekeeping. The retention period for medical images may vary depending on a number of factors and some institutions may choose to keep studies longer for research purposes. The retention period also varies from one state to another depending on HIPAA rules and state law. These differences have forced some medical providers to retain medical records throughout a patient’s life, causing significant storage dilemmas.

How Medical Images are Stored

Medical imaging storage accounts for over 33% of the global demand for storage space and medical imaging archives are increasing by 40% annually. CDs are the most popular storage media for medical images but unfortunately this storage option is very costly. A large hospital can produce as many as 100,000 CDs annually but at $15 per disk, or $1.5M annually, this method is not cost effective. Due to their physical limitations, CDs are also not the best storage option. The vast majority of hospitals have in-house storage systems and depend heavily on CDs, which can be very expensive to run.

Innovative Options for Image Archiving

Cloud Services – This is a type of shared computing, where the resources of several computer servers are brought together to make the cloud. Data is stored in the cloud, which is basically a network of remote servers. Data stored in the cloud can be accessed from any location through a smartphone, personal computer or tablet. Around 15% of healthcare systems in the United States use cloud-based solutions to store medical images. Compared to scaling storage needs in-house, cloud storage has 50% lower hardware costs. The demand for cloud computing solutions for medical imaging storage is expected to increase by 26% until 2018.

Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) – This type of medical device provides information and life cycle management so that images and relevant information can be queried, stored and retried in a manner defined by open standards at multiple department, enterprise and regional levels.

Statewide Medical Image Archives – In 2012, Maine launched the first statewide medical imaging archive in the country. The system gave physicians’ access to X-rays, MRIs and other types of medical images regardless of their location. Originally, images were stored in picture archiving and communication systems, or PACS, within the state’s hospitals. PACS was a desperate attempt at integrated image archiving. Through the statewide image archive, providers in the state are expected to save $6 million over a period of seven years from reduced transport and storage costs.

Hybrid Solutions – LifeImage’s technology platform offers both cloud-based and server-based storage systems for sharing of medical images between providers who may not even be on the same network. Currently, 533 hospitals are connected to the system, which has 54,000 users. Over 1.1 billion images have already been exchanged through the platform.

The Benefits of an Efficient Imaging Archive System

An efficient medical image archiving system allows health care providers to view, share and store medical images expeditiously over a secure network, reduce the time taken to perform proper diagnosis and protect patients from additional radiation exposure as it eliminates the need for another CT scan or MRI. These updated storage systems will save patients and insurers a significant amount of money and provide physicians with in-depth knowledge of a patient’s medical history, increasing the accuracy of the diagnosis.

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