enterprise archiving contract with Siemens, which also provides the picture archiving and communications system (PACS) for Intermountain's cardiology department.
In Siemens' joint venture with Dell, Siemens hosts a vendor-neutral archive that can store images from any kind of PACS in the Siemens Healthcare Computer Center. The images are redundantly hosted in a Dell data center, and Siemens uses Dell's clinical data management software to manage its archive.
Marc Probst, VP and CIO of Intermountain, told InformationWeek Healthcare that he believes that it will be more cost efficient to store images in the cloud than to do it onsite. One reason is the nature of the Siemens deal, under which Intermountain will pay to archive images on a per-study basis.
"Siemens and Dell worked with us to structure this contract in such a way that our costs for managing images would scale with our utilization -- but not in a traditional way," Probst said in the announcement. "For instance, if our volume expands we would expect our costs per study to go down, as a result of the increased volume, but what gives us more peace of mind is the fact that if our imaging volume actually goes down, we have an opportunity to reduce our overall costs."
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Another reason to go to the cloud, Probst said in the interview, is the sheer volume of data that the organization has to archive. Intermountain's hospitals and clinics do millions of imaging tests each year, he noted. Besides storing all of the data associated with those images and the accompanying reports, Intermountain needs to have redundant copies of everything for disaster recovery. And it needs to buy additional storage ahead of time because the system can't be permitted to run out of capacity.
Intermountain also decided to seek a cloud-based, vendor-neutral archive to make it easier to access images across the many different PACS used in various departments and facilities. In addition, the emergence of the accountable care delivery model has made it necessary to provide access to affiliated providers who are not part of Intermountain, Probst noted.
Kurt Reiff, VP of business management at SYNGO Americas for Siemens, also stressed the need for clinicians to have vendor-neutral, anywhere/anytime access to images to improve patient care. "When you look at where medicine is going, you want referring physicians to have access to certain images and information," he told InformationWeek Healthcare, adding that this has not been done so widely anywhere else in the country.
Last spring, however, Dell struck a deal with Maine's statewide information exchange, HealthinfoNet, to form a cloud-based imaging archive for all Maine physicians and hospitals, noted Jamie Coffin, VP and general manager of Dell healthcare and life sciences. Maine providers generate an estimated 1.8 million images annually, according to a news report.
At Intermountain, a viewer that can access images in the Dell-Siemens archive can be launched from the healthcare system's self-developed electronic health record (EHR). Coffin said that the viewer also works with many other EHR systems and that some EHR vendors are building the capability into their products.
In the future, Reiff pointed out, certain kinds of mobile devices will be capable of viewing diagnostic-quality, vendor-neutral images on a Web portal. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year approved the use of a mobile radiology application to view CT and MRI images on iPads and iPhones when a workstation is not available, and Reiff expects further action from the FDA in this area. When that happens, cloud-based, vendor-neutral archiving will facilitate the migration of medical images to mobile devices, he said.