Healthcare IT departments are tasked with managing vast amounts of clinical and administrative data, and the rapid adoption of EHRs and PACS is putting pressure on storage infrastructure at an unprecedented rate. While government requirements and institutional policies compel healthcare organisations to retain this data for many years, the likelihood of access to this data decreases rapidly over time. This calls for a data management strategy that maximises effective use of storage infrastructure while minimising cost.
Research from a global survey by BridgeHead Software, the Healthcare Storage Virtualization (HSV) company, has revealed that secure data management is the healthcare industry's most pressing issue as hospitals move from paper-based health records to electronic systems.
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5. Integrated into healthcare
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Top IT spending for 2010
The Data Management Healthcheck 2010, a global survey into hospitals' ongoing strategies for managing their IT systems, found that the top IT spending priority for 2010 was disaster recovery at 44 percent, closely followed by PACS at 38 percent and digitising paper records at 35 percent.
John McCann, Director of Marketing at BridgeHead Software, said, "The healthcare industry's data environment is notoriously complex, with most hospitals navigating a variety of systems from a range of vendors for managing different types of clinical data in different locations, both on and off hospital premises. When healthcare information systems go down, bringing that information back online is an intricate process. Healthcare IT professionals need to know which applications and data have to be reinstated, and in which order. Given this complexity, it is not surprising that disaster recovery is the top IT investment priority in healthcare today."
BridgeHead Software last month revealed that medical images, scanned documents, emails and advances towards the EHR are the likely causes for the upsurge in healthcare data that is already challenging hospitals and set to grow further in the foreseeable future.
"The evidence speaks for itself," said John McCann, Director of Marketing at BridgeHead Software.
"Data volumes are increasing as the world of healthcare continues to embrace the digital age. A troubling trend we've noticed, however, is that some healthcare organisations are not paying due attention to their data management and storage solution strategies. Many of the hospitals' IT infrastructures are not geared up to handle the rise in data resulting from the increased use of medical images, the continued move towards the Electronic Health Record (including historical document scanning) and the massive upsurge in office-based computing e.g. emails, spreadsheets, word processing documents. Many are ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away, while others are implementing quick fixes that resolve the issue for now, but are not future-proof. As data volumes continue to grow, some organisations will find their challenges gradually become harder-not easier-to resolve."
Increasing data volumes puts pressure on data management
The Data Management Healthcheck found that 69 percent of healthcare organisations expected their data volumes to increase this year. Of those, 65 percent said PACS imaging files were the main culprits, followed by files held in the Electronic Patient Record at 45.5 percent and scanned documents, e.g. proof of insurance and healthcare proxy at 43 percent. In spite of rising data volumes, only 26 percent claimed to have full archiving capabilities that migrated content to the appropriate storage as dictated by their pre-defined policies.
Only 15 percent of respondents listed cloud storage among their top three investment priorities, in spite of the recent buzz around cloud computing. And only 12 percent prioritised green IT: further confirmation of BridgeHead Software's April report that green IT is currently more of an aspiration than a reality at most hospitals.
In April, the global survey into the healthcare industry's ongoing strategies for managing their IT systems, found that only 25 percent of healthcare organisations had a specific CO2 target to reduce their carbon emissions. While 29 percent of respondents were unaware of a CO2 target, if it did exist.