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Medical imaging in the cloud gets its day in the sun

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Kim Garriott

The growth of medical imaging means that healthcare providers need to get a better handle on their data. Is the cloud the answer?

Pre-pandemic, the cloud wasn’t a top priority for most healthcare organizations. According to imaging software vendors (ISVs), customers thought it was too expensive and not secure enough. They also worried that It would take too long to retrieve medical imaging data.

Then the pandemic highlighted the need for remote access to patient information, as well as remote data center management. This need, paired with a rapid increase in the volume and size of medical imaging data produced, has created a surge in demand for enterprise imaging in the cloud.

For example, pathology is one of the last remaining clinical analog workflows, and the data volumes that will be generated by scanning glass slides will be greater than anything seen in hospital settings to date.

Source: DICOM, 2022

The growth of medical imaging means that healthcare providers are struggling to efficiently handle, store, move, manage, and protect this type of data. Solutions are needed that offer ease, security, scalability, accessibility, and cost efficiency.

Cloud that ticks all the boxes

The need to keep up with this data volume encourages cloud adoption, such as using cloud technology to host applications and sensitive data. This technology ends the need for local hosting and the onsite hardware, software, and IT services it requires.

Moving to the cloud brings an opportunity for imaging environments to improve their deployments with better availability, performance, and security while lowering complexity and cost. It offers flexibility of scale, along with the ability to "pay as you go," removing the need for big investments in hardware.

Moving to the cloud also helps with standardization and simplification, reducing time to deployments for digital pathology projects. And it has the power to continuously build productivity tools for radiologists and clinical care teams.

It also promises security, always-on reliability, and availability. The development of HIPAA-compliant, cloud-based medical imaging storage solutions means that healthcare providers don’t have to worry about data breaches or data loss in the event of a natural disaster. Why? Because data can be recovered quickly and restored uncompromised.

Source: Signify Research, 2021

There are huge benefits to medical imaging in the cloud, but that doesn’t make it any less of a major shift for healthcare organizations. Many don’t know where to start, what the core use cases are, and what ISVs can bring to the party.

It's Important to understand that healthcare providers don’t have to move everything to the cloud at once. Some organizations start with nonproduction environments like disaster recovery and backup for regulatory and compliance purposes, then move more environments and applications across as solutions become available.

Where do we go from here?

From the steady increase in availability of cloud solutions to the long-term direction of medicine, the future use of cloud IT for medical imaging is a given. But how medical imaging IT will evolve to meet this inevitable cloud shift is less clear.

These days, healthcare providers often question the cloud options that ISVs offer. When assessing cloud deployment for medical imaging, there are several considerations. More flexible business models associated with cloud hosting services, and a need to solve technical challenges associated with fragmented legacy applications, are often the first areas of focus.

All that aside, there are additional nuanced considerations that can have a substantial impact on the success of cloud adoption in this space. 

Kim Garriott

As Chief Innovation Officer of NetApp Healthcare, Kim works with public cloud providers, software vendors, and system integrators to develop and market innovative data management solutions and strategies for private and public health sector clients, with a focus on enterprise medical imaging.

View all Posts by Kim Garriott

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