The best ways to store and manage medical images

The Best Ways to Store and Manage Medical Images

Healthcare organizations need to have the proper IT infrastructure and medical image storage cloud in place to access their patient records and to support their growing storage needs. But with so many medical image management options available, how do you decide on what the best choice is for your organization? In this blog, we’ll break down some of the most common medical image sharing cloud and medical image archive methods to bring some clarity.

Let’s begin!

Medical image storage options

CDs

Many healthcare facilities rely on CDs as a medical image storage solution, but it comes with a price – CDs cost large providers up to $1.5 million per year, with many hospitals producing 100,000 CDs annually. As well as taking up a great deal of physical space, locating archived CDs can take several hours.

There are other risks associated with CDs. For one, there’s the possibility of patients losing them which can be a HIPAA violation. Additionally, CDs can become corrupt or damaged making them unreadable. An easier (and safer) medical image sharing method utilizes QR codes. With QR SNAP™, patients just need to show their QR code to their healthcare provider to share their images and reports instantly.

Internal server for medical image archiving

An internal or on-premises server for medical image archiving is certainly more of an advanced and sustainable storage option than CDs, but it can still prove to be a costly archiving method. Costs related to purchasing the servers, maintaining them, and paying trained staff to oversee them all add up.

Medical image cloud storage

By offering high performance, reliability, and robust security, it’s no wonder cloud PACS have garnered more traction over the years amongst medical image cloud storage options. Compared to an on-premises PACS, a cloud PACS provides organizations greater flexibility and scalability for storing medical images – check out our on-premises PACS vs cloud PACS blog post to learn more about this topic.

Considering a cloud PACS but not quite sure what to look for? At the very least, you should ensure these key features are available in your cloud image management system.

Items to look for in a cloud image management system

Hybrid medical image archive

A hybrid cloud solution is an ideal option for organizations interested in transitioning from on-prem to the cloud while still having the ability to retain some data internally. RamSoft offers hybrid medical image archive solutions for organizations who are exploring this route.

Differences between internal servers, cloud, and hybrid cloud

Considerations & best practices for medical image management

CDs

While CDs are widely used for medical image management, storing and transferring images is a cumbersome process for both your patients and staff. It starts with:

• A staff member copying DICOM images from the PACS to a CD, which is then given to a patient

• After acquiring the CD, the patient must bring that CD to their next medical appointment

• To view the DICOM images on the CD, the practitioner must have access to DICOM medical image viewer software – this is either included in the CD, or they might be able to use their own software they currently have installed

This medical image sharing process is problematic in a few ways. Number one, it’s expensive. Burning CDs for each patient that requests one eats up time and money – we also can’t forget to mention the requirement of purchasing DICOM CD burner and DICOM medical image viewer software.

Number two, it’s inefficient for your staff and patients. It takes time for your staff to prepare CDs, and patients either need to come to the office to pick up their CD or wait for it to be delivered. Transferring physical media poses obvious risks like theft or loss, which compromises the patient’s privacy.

Internal servers

Using internal servers for medical image management means that healthcare data resides in the organization’s own data center on-site. Healthcare organizations tend to favor keeping their data on-premises so they have complete control on how they store and access their data.

As the servers are located within the organization’s site, the organization needs to have technical personnel to monitor and maintain their servers. Anything related to software upgrades, hardware refreshes, and addressing downtime is the organization’s responsibility.

The more patients you examine, the more storage you need to handle DICOM images. Flexibility is paramount for long-term storage, especially as your organization grows. By having local physical servers, you’ll have to purchase additional servers to accommodate this growth. Medical image cloud storage, on the other hand, allows you to increase your storage requirements quickly with ease.

Vendors with underdeveloped systems

There are many vendors that offer medical image management software, but not all systems are created equally. We’ll focus on open source PACS as an example.

Open source PACS is attractive to users who are interested in a free PACS solution; this is especially the case for users in small organizations, research institutions, or those who live in developing countries with limited resources.

Though this medical image management system option is available free of charge, study findings revealed that open source PACS have several workflow limitations related to:

• Routing
• Reporting
• Data storage limitations
• Processing and migration problems
• Security concerns

The authors’ findings suggest that open source PACS users shouldn’t expect the same level of functionality, ease of use, and applications one would find in a PACS developed by a commercial vendor.

RamSoft’s medical image management workflow

RamSoft designs fully customizable medical image management software to meet the unique imaging workflow needs of healthcare organizations.

By simplifying their workflows, we help healthcare organizations overcome their day-to-day challenges and gain immediate access to medical images and information when they need it. Here’s what healthcare professionals can expect with our PACS:

  • Remote access
  • Easy image sharing (QR SNAP™, RapidResults™)
  • Integrations
  • Scalability

What you get with PowerServer PACS

Best practices for medical image sharing

Medical image sharing is pivotal in improving patient care, patient satisfaction, and reducing costs. While the need for providers and patients to exchange and share images is apparent, many organizations are just starting to take steps to streamline medical image sharing.

To highlight the differences in efficiency, imagine these two scenarios below. The first one involves image sharing via CDs:

Joseph wants a second opinion from a medical professional from another hospital. However, he needs to obtain his medical images from the first hospital he originally visited. Since he recently moved to a new city, he needs to commute two hours to the original hospital to obtain his images on a CD before handing them over to a second professional. After paying the fee for his images, Joseph must handle his CD carefully to avoid losing or damaging it. On the day of his appointment at the second hospital, he gives his CD to the staff to proceed with his appointment.

This scenario with Joseph shows how time-consuming this method of image sharing is. Not only is it an inconvenience for Joseph, but the entire process also delays when he receives a final diagnosis.

Share medical images with QR SNAP

Now let’s take this same scenario but with another form of medical image exchange – specifically with RamSoft’s QR SNAP™.

Joseph arrives at the hospital for his appointment to get a second opinion on his case. The first hospital he initially visited provided him with a QR code with his images and report embedded by using QR SNAP™ – at this second hospital, Joseph just needs to show his physician his QR code for them to immediately view and access this data. Joseph doesn’t have to worry about obtaining his images or waiting longer than needed to receive a diagnosis.

Wrapping up

It’s perfectly normal to weigh your medical image storage cloud and medical image sharing cloud options for your organization or enterprise. After all, how you go about medical image management will be key in reducing long-term costs and achieving greater interoperability.

Get in touch with us if you have any questions or concerns about your imaging workflow. We’re always happy to help!

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