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Healthcare Prescribes Storage

Driven primarily by compliance regulations and new medical tools that create large digital files, the healthcare industry has gone from storage laggard to stalwart.

Hospitals and other health facilities need to rapidly increase their storage capacities to keep up with new medical developments. Theyre also willing to give new storage technologies an early try and are commonly among early adopters of IP SANs, virtual tape libraries (VTLs), and continous data protection (CDP).

“For many years, healthcare did not fully realize the opportunity that technology can bring,” said Bill Lazarus, VP of IT architecture at St. Joseph Health System in Orange, Calif., in a talk last fall. (See Admins: Know Thy Data. “[Now] we’re bringing a whole population of clinical users that are used to manual processes for decades online with new state-of-the-art applications.”

Those new applications include picture archiving communications systems (PACS) and multislice Computed Tomography (CT) scans. PACS digitally store cardiology and radiology tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) results, and other large files. Multislice CTs allow faster brain scans and can focus on thinner slices of tissue than previous CTs -- and could require up to 1 Gbyte of storage per exam. Other new systems include storage hogs like 3D Ultrasound and digital mammography machines. (See Healthcare Seeks Storage Rx.)

New medical technology isn't the only thing driving the boom in healthcare storage. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which forces organizations to keep patient records for decades, is a piece of legislation storage vendors hold dear -- even if it's failing in its mission. (See Research Finds HIPAA Ineffective and Toothless Indeed.)

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