Before the pandemic, hospitals were hesitant to embrace a cloud journey. Sure, some were using the cloud for research projects and used cloud-based applications like Microsoft 365, but use of the cloud for medical imaging data management was largely in its infancy.
Fast-forward to today. Although it seems in many ways that the world has stood still for the past 14 months, the adoption of cloud across healthcare has grown rapidly. Previous hesitancies are being overcome by the need to optimize valuable resources, to reduce the data center footprint, to establish consumption-based infrastructure models, and to enable AI modeling.
But has cloud interest picked up at the same pace for enterprise imaging? In March and April, I had the honor of hosting the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) Enterprise Imaging Webinar Series, where we explored the topic to find out. And the answer is yes.
Why enterprise images are moving to cloud
Audience participation in the webinar discussions and in the post discussion surveys was robust. That level of interest is a clear indication that individuals are being tasked with developing cloud strategies for enterprise imaging data management.
Here are a few of the key takeaways from the cloud-focused webinar series:
- Most of the major enterprise imaging software vendors now offer a level of cloud-based capabilities or are well on their way to developing those capabilities. And there is consumer demand for those capabilities.
- At the onset, vendors have been taking different approaches to enable cloud adoption. Some are focused on eliminating an on-premises presence and providing cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) options. But others are focused, for now, on enabling disaster recovery and tier 4 archiving in the cloud. Most, if not all, vendors are on their way to providing cloud-based, SaaS models.
- Cloud-based SaaS models are the future of medical imaging software, and for good reason:
- This approach minimizes, and in some cases eliminates, the need for any on-premises hardware or software. This benefit supports a movement within health IT to simplify overhead and to focus employee resources on high-value efforts.
- Cloud-based SaaS enables true consumption-based infrastructure, meaning that you pay only for the compute and storage that you need, when you need it. A prime advantage of the cloud is on-demand scalability. Planning for and buying storage capacity years ahead of when you need it will be a thing of the past.
- As imaging software becomes cloud native, enhancements can be released at a rapid rate, updates and upgrades will be nondisruptive, and testing will be streamlined. These benefits will lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction. And, ultimately, these improvements will lead to fewer site-specific customizations and to greater levels of interoperability. Imagine a world where you don’t have to test at all because all your sites are configured the same way. It may seem like a far-fetched claim, but it is achievable. And to realize the true power of interoperability, it’s necessary.
- Connectivity speed (bandwidth) to the cloud is a top-priority consideration. Performance can’t be a limiting factor, and achieving low latency comes at a cost.
- Speaking of performance, organizations must be thoughtful about their approach to cloud-based services. We have all heard stories of early adopters moving to the cloud, only to return quickly because of performance issues and/or unexpected costs (egress fees or the fee for pulling data back from the cloud). It is crucial to carefully plan the underlying data flow architecture. During the April panel discussion, we heard from UCLA Health and Centura Health that the primary key to successful adoption of cloud is to understand image usage, specifically access to images after initial acquisition and interpretation. Another key is to craft an architecture that accommodates that usage accordingly.
- Yet another factor for success is the active involvement of internal stakeholders during performance testing. We shouldn’t have to mention it, but just in case for those at the back of the room: Stakeholder engagement is vital.
Careful planning and the right partner are critical for your cloud journey
Use of the cloud, whether public or private, must be a primary component in your medical imaging data management strategy. Organizations and software vendors take different approaches to their cloud journey, but careful planning can’t be overlooked and is critical to success.
The best way to navigate the wide range of options that are available is to collaborate with the right data management partner. NetApp is the data management authority and the only one that offers the same cloud experience regardless of the cloud path that you choose—private, public, or multicloud. And NetApp is the only one that offers that experience in all the major public clouds.
Start your cloud journey today. To learn more, visit NetApp® Cloud Central.