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Taking an Incremental Approach to Cloud-based Image Sharing

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Migrating to the cloud for image sharing and storage doesn't have to be an all-in affair. What about an incremental approach?

With all the buzz about migrating to the cloud, perhaps it’s time to make the change. But for those hesitating organizations that aren’t ready to go all-in to cloud-based image sharing and storage, there’s another option: an incremental approach.

“The incremental adoption is the ability to do small work flow-dedicated things and simultaneously being able to expand to other work flow components on demand,” said Hamid Tabatabaie, president and CEO of lifeIMAGE, an electronic image sharing solutions provider. The smaller-scale solutions, rather than a major organizational change, can ease an organization wary of the cloud into this new movement.

One example, Tabatabaie said, is the recent partnership between Siemens and Dell for a cloud-based image archiving solution. Siemens will deliver the archiving and sharing solution, using Dell’s management software. Opting for a cloud-based data center is one incremental step, Tabatabaie said.

The cloud trend is heralding a major shift in radiology away from legacy PACS and CDs for transferring images. Increasingly, providers are migrating to an Internet-based platform, seeing benefits in improved collaboration among providers and thus improved patient care.

Although cloud computing isn’t new, it’s just taking hold in healthcare. A recent Chilmark Research report, sponsored by lifeIMAGE, found that 72 percent of healthcare organizations do not offer open access imaging sharing, and often those that do only connect those within the same organization. However, researchers did find that large healthcare organizations are beginning to migrate away from physical media for image exchange to cloud-based system.

There are some hesitations, though, with this approach. In an informal Diagnostic Imaging poll, nearly 70 percent of respondents (at last check) said they were concerned about security and privacy of patient information in the cloud.

So rather than jump in feet first, Tabatabaie suggested the incremental approach. Another place to start is what he called “shoebox eradication,” getting rid of the box of CDs of medical images in favor of an online exchange. Similarly, an organization might decide to stop transferring CDs themselves and instead invest in an infrastructure to at least transfer images among the expected sources.

Tabatabaie noted, however, that the small steps should be taken with bigger goals in mind. The solution should be scalable for more robust image sharing and archiving tasks, so that as comfort level and organizational needs grow, so can the cloud-based solution.

“As long as you are buying into an infrastructure and a network that can naturally expand your needs,” he said, “incremental adoption makes sense.”

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