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Medical Record Storage and PACS Archiving: Challenges & StoneFly’s Solutions

6

MARCH, 2019

PACS archiving and medical record storage are necessary for healthcare organizations. However, PACS generate large volumes of data and medical record consists of sensitive information. This makes it a challenge for healthcare organizations to setup reliable data archive solutions for PACS and medical records.

In this article, we explore PACS, the challenges healthcare organizations have to face in order to setup a reliable data archive solution for PACS archiving and medical record storage, and lastly we explore StoneFly’s data archive solutions.

What is PACS?

Medical Record Storage and PACS Archiving: Challenges & StoneFly’s Solutions 1

PACS, short for Picture Archiving and Communication Systems, is an imaging technology used in the healthcare industry (hospitals, clinics, radiology departments, etc.).

PACS replaces the conventional model of manually collecting, storing and retaining image-based medical information (such as X-rays) with digital image creation and storage. This helps healthcare professionals to easily collect data, efficiently manage it and quickly access it whenever necessary. The integration of PACS technology helps the healthcare industry offer better healthcare to their clients.

PACS technology improves healthcare for both the industry and the end-user but organizations have to face a number of challenges when it comes to medical record storage and archiving. Let’s briefly explore these challenges:

Challenges with Medical Record Storage and PACS Archiving

Medical Record Storage and PACS Archiving: Challenges & StoneFly’s Solutions 2

In the healthcare industry, it’s very important that patient data is collected correctly and then it’s stored in a reliable storage media where it can stay for an indefinite period of time. Moreover, the data should be quickly accessible at any given time. These are the basic medical record storage requirements applicable to any healthcare organization or department.

In order to deliver as per these requirements, healthcare organizations face a number of challenges. Here’s a brief list of those challenges:

Medical Record Big Data – Let’s consider a hospital, this hospital is expected to collect and maintain medical records for all of their patients. The medical record per patient varies. Some patients have minor sickness or disease and thus don’t lead to the generation of PACS data. While others, due to their condition, generate lots of PACS data which in turn needs medical record storage and later medical record archiving.

Safe to say, if we’re talking about a single hospital then we’re considering thousands of patients per month. And that implies, medical record storage and archiving for all of that data.

It’s a challenge to setup a data archive solution that can store and retain all of that big data. It’s also equally challenging to manage the data archive solution.

Long term Retention / Medical Data Archive – From the above example, it’s clear that medical record storage ranges from Terabytes (TBs) to Petabytes (PBs) in size. Due to compliance regulations and internal policies, healthcare organizations have to setup an equally large or even greater in size data archive solution.

The said data archive solution has to be reliable because it has to retain TBs (if not PBs) of medical records for several years. As mentioned earlier, the data archive solution also has to be reliable and robust due to the long term retention and it has to deliver quicker access to the medical record whenever necessary.

 These challenges put the healthcare organizations in a bind. They have to either fat provision (thick provision) their medical record storage solutions or they have to consult experts and analyze data archive solutions in the industry to make sure that they can deliver what the industry needs from them.

Medical Record Data Growth – There’s no algorithm that can predict the precise rate of medical record data creation nor can it exactly predict how much the data will grow in a given period of time.

This adds to the existing challenge of getting and setting up a reliable data archive solution for medical record big data. Not only does the medical record storage has to be big enough to accommodate the data, robust enough to retain it for longer periods of time and efficient enough to ensure fast data accessibility; it also has to be scalable enough to accommodate for the future growth of medical records.

 Compliance to Industry Regulations like HIPAA/HITRUST etc. – Industry regulations (such as HIPAA/HITRUST etc.) define a specific set of rules pertaining to medical record data collection, storage and retention.

It’s always challenging to set a standard model of operation for a large data archive solution that’s meant to store and retain PBs of data.

Cost Implications of Medical Data Archive Solution – As it is clear from the above mentioned challenges that the relevant data archive solution for medical records and PACS data has to be able to store and retain TBs to PBs of data; regardless of the chosen type of data archive solution (on-premises/in-house, offsite or cloud-based), it’s highly likely to be very expensive.

Add to that the OpEx expenses of long term medical record archive and the resulting sum tends to be huge.

Before we move forward, let’s clarify something. The above mentioned challenges aren’t explicitly applicable to medical records only or just to PACS archiving. Healthcare organizations face these challenges for both medical record archiving and PACS archiving; in other words, they’re generally applicable.

Now that we’ve developed an idea of the challenges healthcare organizations have to face when trying to setup data archive solutions for PACS archiving or medical record storage, let’s take a look at what kind of storage solutions or options are available in the market.

Data Archive Solutions for PACS Archiving – On-Premises and in the Cloud

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Healthcare organizations can choose from on-premises/in-house solutions and cloud storage solutions for PACS archiving and/or medical record storage.

On-Premises/In-house Data Archive Solutions – On-premises data archive solutions consist of large storage infrastructures setup in-house. These can be Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliances, if the user is looking for data archiving only. And they can be Storage Area Network (SAN) appliances, if the user is looking to integrate data analytics or other similar applications to run on the data archive solution.

Another in-house data archive solution is hyperconverged infrastructure. Hyperconverged storage appliances combine networking, storage and server in a single appliance. This facilitates a wide range of applications and enables businesses to setup storage with ease.

An extension of this type of data archive solution is offsite data archiving. Users can choose to setup storage media in an offsite location and then archive data using networking, WAN, or by physically moving tape storage media from on-site to offsite storage.

Combinations of SAS and SSD drives facilitate users to control cost and performance as per their usage. As SAS is affordable but compromises performance whereas SSDs are high performance drives but they tend to be more expensive storage options.

By setting up combinations of SAS and SSD drives, users can integrate automated storage tiering technology that moves data between archive storage tiers and more frequently accessed storage tiers. This will facilitate efficient usage of the acquired storage technology while keeping the cost implications in check.

Cloud-based Data Archive Solutions – Cloud-based data archive solutions leverage archive storage tiers offered by public and private Cloud Service Providers (CSPs). Examples of cloud archive tiers include AWS Glacier, Azure Archive blob, etc.

There are multiple ways to integrate cloud data archive solutions with existing storage solutions. Users who already have storage media can integrate cloud archive tiers using storage gateway technology.

Another way to leverage cloud archive tiers for PACS archiving or medical record storage is to setup hybrid solutions.

Hybrid solutions are on-premises storage infrastructure with cloud connect technology. With hybrid data archive solutions, users can store frequently accessed data on-premises whereas use automated storage tiering policies to migrate archive data to cloud tiers.

In summary, healthcare organizations and service providers can leverage the following types of storage technology solutions for medical record storage and PACS archiving:

  • On-premises/in-house data archive solutions.
  • Offsite data archive solutions.
  • Cloud-based data archive solutions.
  • Hybrid data archive solutions.

This is what we’ve explored so far:

  • The challenges for healthcare organizations with medical record storage and PACS archiving.
  • Available data archive solutions for medical record storage and PACS archiving.

Now, let’s explore what data archive solutions does StoneFly has to offer for medical record storage and PACS archiving.

StoneFly’s Data Archive Solutions for Medical Record Storage and PACS Archiving

StoneFly offers a diverse range of data archive solutions capable of supporting all kinds of applications and use-cases.

StoneFly’s range of data archive solutions include:

  • On-premises data archive solutions.
  • Cloud-based data archive solutions.
  • Hybrid data archive solutions.
  • Storage Gateway (available as physical appliance and a software solution).

StoneFly On-premises Data Archive Solutions

StoneFly offers a range of on-premises storage systems that are suitable for PACS archiving and medical record storage.

For users looking to setup data storage only, StoneFly offers highly scalable and affordable Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliances. To learn more about StoneFly NAS appliances by clicking here: SSO™ Scale Out NAS Appliances.  

Users looking to run applications or programs on their storage systems can choose StoneFly ISC™ Storage Area Network (SAN) appliances. To learn more about StoneFly ISC storage appliances, click here: ISC SAN Appliances

Users can also setup StoneFly’s USO™ appliances that combine scalability and both NAS and SAN storage. To learn more about StoneFly USO appliances, click here: USO HyperScale Converged SAN + NAS + Object Scale Out System.

Users looking for simplicity and applicability can leverage StoneFly USS™ hyperconverged appliances. To learn more about StoneFly USS appliances, click here: USS hyperconverged appliance.

All of the above mentioned storage solutions have built-in cloud connect technology. Users can choose any of these storage solutions and leverage the cloud connect technology to setup hybrid data archive solutions.

StoneFly Cloud-based Data Archive Solutions

StoneFly is a certified Microsoft Azure Marketplace partner, a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) partner, a Microsoft Government Cloud Service Partner and an Amazon AWS Technology partner.

In other words, users can leverage StoneFly’s services and setup data archive solutions for medical record storage and PACS archiving in Microsoft Azure (Commercial and Government) and Amazon AWS cloud.

Healthcare organizations can comply to industry regulations (like HIPAA/HITRUST, etc.) by setting up medical record storage and PACS archiving in Microsoft Azure cloud or AWS cloud.

StoneFly also offers StoneFly’s private cloud for healthcare organizations looking to setup archives in private cloud instead of public clouds.

To learn more about StoneFly’s cloud archiving solution, click here: Cloud Archiving Solution.

StoneFly Storage Gateway for Medical Record Storage & PACS Archiving

Users who already have on-premises storage media can leverage StoneFly’s storage gateway technology to setup a hybrid data archive solution.

With StoneFly storage gateway, users can configure Microsoft Azure cloud, Amazon AWS cloud, and StoneFly’s private cloud with their existing storage systems. Users can also leverage a wide a range of data services purpose-built to support data transfers. Data services like automated storage tiering deliver an automated process of data migration from one storage repository to the other based on user-defined policies. This enables users to reduce cost and simplify data management for large workload volumes with ease.

To learn more about StoneFly Storage Gateway, click here: Smart Cloud Gateway to Azure, AWS and S3.

Conclusion

Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS) is an image-based technology that digitally stored medical data such as X-ray, CT scans, etc. PACS technology generates high quality and large volumes of image/media data.

In order to setup medical record storage and PACS archiving, healthcare organizations face a number of challenges. Some of them are:

  • Medical Record Big Data.
  • Long Term Retention / Medical Data Archive.
  • Medical Record Data Growth.
  • Compliance to industry regulations.
  • Cost Implications of Medical Data Archive Solutions.

There are two major type of storage options that healthcare organizations can setup for medical record storage and PACS archiving: on-premises data archive solutions and cloud-based archive solutions. Healthcare organizations can also setup offsite data archive solutions and they can leverage cloud gateway technology or cloud connect technology to setup hybrid data archive solutions.

StoneFly offers a wide range of on-premises, cloud-based and hybrid data archive solutions that facilitate healthcare organizations to effortlessly setup medical record storage and PACS archiving.

With StoneFly’s technology, users can accommodate easily setup long term data retention, comply to industry regulations, and keep the cost of data retention in check.

That concludes this article about medical record storage and PACS archiving. If you have any queries, please feel free to send us an email at sales@stonefly.com or give us a call at 510 265 1616.

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