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2/16/2012
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Dell, Siemens Partner On Image Sharing, Archiving

Partnership will boost Dell's Unified Clinical Archive and Siemens' Image Sharing & Archiving system and its Healthcare Cloud Computing Center.

Health IT On Display: HIMSS12 Preview
Health IT On Display: HIMSS12 Preview
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Dell and Siemens are combining forces to provide a vendor-neutral, cloud-based tool for archiving and sharing medical images and other clinical data. The alliance with Siemens will significantly increase the footprint of Dell's Unified Clinical Archive, which encompasses radiology, cardiology, neurosurgery, endoscopy, pathology, and patient records.

Under the agreement, which will be announced next week at the annual HIMSS conference, Siemens will incorporate Dell’s clinical data management software into its Image Sharing & Archiving (ISA) system. In addition, the Dell Cloud Clinical Archive will provide redundant archiving support for Siemens Healthcare Cloud Computing Center. The two companies will collaboratively market the joint platform.

The deal will enable Siemens to offer cloud-based storage and data management to its customers, which include about 1,500 U.S. hospitals and imaging centers. "There's a compelling reason for customers who don't want to be involved in storing and maintaining data to use this solution," said Kurt Reiff, vice president, business management, SYNGO Americas, Siemens Healthcare, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.

[Is it time to re-engineer your Clinical Decision Support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs.]

Jamie Coffin, vice president and general manager, Dell Healthcare and Life Sciences, agreed. "Most community hospitals don't have a lot of IT staff or data centers," he pointed out. "So it doesn't make sense for those hospitals to worry about how to manage this data going forward."

Another reason for Siemens customers to use the new service, Coffin said, is that the sheer amount of data they must store is growing exponentially. Imaging device manufacturers have moved from 8-slice and 16-slice scanners to 64-slice units and even 256-slice machines. There are also new breakthroughs in areas like digital pathology and proteomics. "Providers have to deal with this explosion of data and how they store this data so they don't have to keep moving it around every time they change a vendor."

Already, he observed, some large healthcare systems are storing five or more terabytes of data. When they switch from one picture archiving and communications system (PACS) to another, they have to migrate that data at a cost of $8,000-$10,000 per terabyte. But if they use the Dell-Siemens tool, they never have to move the data, because it can be viewed in any system, regardless of where it originated.

Coffin said that images in the Dell archive would be viewable in any PACS, whether or not the provider that generated the data subscribed to the DICOM standard or whether it had tweaked that standard to meet its own needs.

Siemens, which makes general and cardiology PACS, as well as CT and MR scanners, earlier tried to build its own cloud storage system, noted Reiff. But it's not an expert in that area. "So the Dell vision of providing cloud-based computing on a big scale, and our vision of providing vendor-independent clinical software on the front end, and having a workflow engine in between, is a perfect match. We don't want to build our own vendor-neutral archive. There are companies that are far better at doing that. We want to concentrate on what we do well--clinical software."

Dell's Unified Clinical Archive also hosts Merge Healthcare's new Honeycomb service, which allows providers with diverse PACS to share images. When the alliance of these companies was announced last fall, Dell said it was managing more than 4 billion medical images and studies.

Cloud-based imaging sharing and archiving has become a growth industry lately. For example, AT&T and Accenture recently announced they planned to offer a joint solution in that space. But Dell and Siemens don't regard them as real competition, Coffin said.

Healthcare providers must collect all sorts of performance data to meet emerging standards. The new Pay For Performance issue of InformationWeek Healthcare delves into the huge task ahead. Also in this issue: Why personal health records have flopped. (Free registration required.)

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