Medical Images Cited for Surge in Hospital Data

June 28, 2012

Medical imaging studies stored in PACS account for the large surge in health care data burdening hospitals, a new survey found.

Medical imaging studies account for the large surge in health care data burdening hospitals, according to a survey examining how hospitals around the world are responding to the massive amounts of electronic data.

Radiology PACS were cited by 63.1 percent of respondents as the No. 1 cause of data growth, followed by files in the electronic health record (54.1 percent), according to the second annual International Healthcare Data Management Survey from BridgeHead Software.

BridgeHead’s CEO Jim Beagle noted that medical imaging’s application in departments outside of radiology is helping drive that growth.

“Because of the ever-widening scope of medical image technologies, and the frequency and size of the images that modalities are now able to produce, the rate of data growth in imaging outside of radiology is actually much faster than radiology itself, particular in areas such as digital pathology,” he noted in the survey. “As healthcare organizations take advantage of newer technologies, so the upsurge in medical image data continues.”

The 2010 survey found similar results: 65.3 percent cited PACS as the main cause of data growth.

Data growth, the survey found, was the major factor in hospital IT purchasing decisions. Disaster recovery systems were the top priority as organizations work to ensure patient information is available. More than half of respondents (54.6 percent) selected disaster recovery as one of their top three IT investment priorities, an 11 percent increase compared with last year.

The lowest ranking IT priority? Cloud storage, with just 10 percent. Healthcare leaders aren’t convinced cloud storage is the safest and most effective way to store data, the survey found. About 48 percent of respondents said concerns about security and the availability of patient data were main reasons for not storing in the cloud.

The growth in health care data is prompting organizations to invest in data management solutions, and most of the hospitals (51.4 percent) said they will likely invest in a PACS application that has a third-party, vendor neutral archive (VNA), as opposed to the vendor’s proprietary archive. Nearly 36 percent said they already had a VNA or planned to deploy one.

Among US respondents, 45.5 percent said their organization would likely require their PACS to be compatible with a VNA. VNAs, the survey noted, are credited with facilitating IT interoperability, data access, reduced costs and disaster recovery.

“ VNAs allow hospitals to take back ownership of their data,” Beagle said, “allowing them to optimize the use of their existing storage infrastructure systems investments, reducing redundancy and often delaying expensive storage refreshes until they are truly needed.”