PACS Poses Storage Challenge

CIOs at SNW thrash out the pluses and minuses of deploying digital imaging technology

April 6, 2006

3 Min Read
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SAN DIEGO -- Storage Networking World -- The healthcare industry's shift toward Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS) technology for digital radiography images is presenting CIOs with a new set of storage challenges, according to execs here.

During his keynote today, Dennis L'Heureux, CIO of Rockford Health System, explained that the move from physical film to digital images has prompted a major storage overhaul. "That's probably my largest application in terms of requiring storage capability," he said. "Significant infrastructure is required."

L'Heureux told Byte and Switch that he deployed a PACs system from McKesson last year and is using a 7.6-Tbyte SAN as its foundation. This, he added, involves RAID 10 arrays and technology from SAN specialist Xiotech.

Rockford Health undertakes around 142,000 radiography exams a year, so L'Heureux highlighted the redundancy and indexing capabilities of RAID 10, as well as the scalability of networked storage. "SAN, I think, offers more flexibility and quicker retrieval, so I don't have to go back and go through a tape library," he explained.

L'Heureux, who deployed the $4.2 million PACS last year, now expects a serious return on his investment. This, he said, will slash the amount of money spent handling and processing film, not to mention freeing up valuable hospital resources. Silver oxide films, for example, are currently stored in a 5,000-square-foot basement. "There's considerable cost savings, particularly if we can convert that 5,000 square feet to a revenue producing function."The CIO has already forecast a $1.5 million ROI by the end of 2006 and is gunning to recoup his total investment within a five-year timeframe.

Despite Rockford Health's apparent success, other IT managers deploying PACS technology voiced their concerns about vendor lock-in. Jeff Pelot, CTO at Denver Health, told Byte and Switch that he is currently deploying a 30-Tbyte PACS solution and his service supplier supports EMC. "It has limited the storage options available to us," he admitted, although he expects to have an EMC Celerra-based PACS up and running sometime in June.

Dave Dully, CTO at Baptist Memorial Healthcare, which spans 15 hospitals and approximately 12,000 employees across Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, said the ball is firmly in the court of the healthcare providers. "It's up to us to drive [vendors] to provide solutions that are more heterogeneous," he said.

Baptist Memorial Healthcare, which is regarded as something of a technology trailblazer in the health sector, has good reason to steer clear of vendor lock-in. (See Baptist Memorial Healthcare, Baptist Memorial Picks Copan, and Hospital Prescribes VTL, CDP.) "We're looking at leveraging our PACS infrastructure to store information from other medical devices," explained Dully.

But L'Heureux told Byte and Switch that he did not encounter any of these problems when deploying his own PACS. "Right up front, we wanted to know what flexibility McKesson could offer us," he said, explaining that he needed a PACS vendor capable of protecting his existing Xiotech investment. "They were flexible enough, and that helped us select them," he added.L'Heureux, however, estimates that PACS technology is only used in 20 percent of the 6,700 medical centers in the U.S., so more firms are likely to face up to these deployment challenges over the coming years.

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Xiotech Corp.

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