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Thanks in large part to the shift to electronic health records and more widespread adoption of connected devices and equipment, healthcare organizations are generating a ton of data. To enhance care and improve outcomes, this data must be easily accessible to doctors and other medical personnel. Legal and compliance departments also must have access to this data to ensure that regulations are being met.

Medical imaging represents a growing portion of healthcare data. Medical imaging data files are very large, and the modalities used to generate them are constantly evolving. Because aging infrastructure and data siloes make it difficult or impossible to share patient data, many diagnostic imaging tests are repeats, which creates even more data. Needless to say, properly storing, protecting, managing and sharing electronic data while facing significant pressure to reduce costs is an arduous task for healthcare organizations.

A picture archiving and communication system (PACS) can simplify the management of patient and health data while eliminating the cost of storing and maintaining film images. A PACS uses hardware and software to securely store, retrieve and share digital diagnostic images such as ultrasound, CT scans and MRIs across a network. Diagnostic equipment delivers these images to PACS servers, where they are stored and then delivered to workstations for viewing. The speed and quality of care can be improved because clinicians have faster access to medical imaging and associated data, while simplified processes for managing data can create operational efficiencies and improve productivity.

Unlike legacy PACS technology that is tied to a specific vendor’s solution, today’s deconstructed PACS, or PACS 3.0, takes a standards-based, vendor-neutral approach. By using standard network communications protocols and file formats, images from various PACS systems can be viewed from virtually any user interface. This interoperability removes workflow bottlenecks and reduces costs by enabling organizations to consolidate image viewers and processes across all modalities.

The emergence of PACS and closely related vendor-neutral archives (VNAs) is indicative of the shift away from departmental siloes in favor of a holistic, enterprise-wide view of medical images. This approach improves access to medical images while reducing storage and migration costs.

However, many healthcare organizations are using legacy infrastructure that is inadequate for backing up PACS data. Large data files are difficult to process, and a lack of bandwidth creates performance bottlenecks. This can also create diagnostic image display issues, which are further complicated by client-side processing.

Obviously, the larger, more complex volumes of PACS data require a robust, sophisticated storage infrastructure. The cloud can also provide a cost-efficient centralized repository for medical imaging and data, with reliable disaster recovery capabilities and capacity that can be easily scaled as needs change. Whether data is stored onsite or in the cloud, high network bandwidth is essential to supporting PACS applications and files and meeting user demands for speed, connectivity and accessibility.

Data volumes are only going to increase in the healthcare sector. Healthcare organizations must consider upgrading their aging IT infrastructure so they can take full advantage of modern PACS solutions. Pivot Technology Solutions, through its portfolio companies, can help healthcare organizations evaluate technologies that deliver the scalability, management simplicity, security and accessibility required to enhance patient care and satisfy regulatory requirements.

by John Flores