Enterprise Imaging Data Management: Why Your Strategy Must Include the Cloud

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, reduce the data center footprint, establish consumption-based infrastructure models, and enable AI modeling.

Enterprise imaging is moving to cloud

There are a variety of indicators marking the transition of enterprise imaging from on-premises environments to those that are cloud-hosted.

  • Many 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 increasing consumer demand for those capabilities.
  • Health IT organizations are seeking turnkey, managed services with predictable consumption-based cost models. The cloud enables that model.
  • Major cloud providers have efforts underway to develop or enhance value-add capabilities for medical imaging, with a focus on AI modeling.

Cloud-based SaaS models are the future of medical imaging software and for good reasons

  • 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 do not 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 is necessary.

Start planning now

At the onset, imaging software 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. While 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. Because of these differences in approach, you need to have in-depth discussions with your vendor to understand how they are approaching the cloud. At the same time, you need to look inward at your organization.

  • Connectivity speed (bandwidth) to the cloud is a top-priority consideration. Performance cannot be a limiting factor, and achieving low latency comes at a cost. What network options are available to your organization? Connectivity options and cost vary based on geographical location. Are the available options sufficient and at a cost point that you can afford? If they are not today, no worries, they will be tomorrow.
  • 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 such as egress fees or the fee for pulling data back from the cloud. A critical factor for success is to understand clinical workflow and image usage, specifically access to images after initial acquisition and interpretation. Once you understand that, craft a dataflow and underlying architecture that accommodates usage accordingly.
  • Yet another factor for success is the active involvement of internal stakeholders during performance testing. We should not 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

Using cloud, whether private, hybrid or public, 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 cannot 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, hybrid, 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.