The healthcare industry is struggling to redefine best practices in data management. To some extent external forces, such as hospital consolidation, government regulation and technology advancement are driving this change. 

Healthcare organizations struggling to better consolidate, organize and manage their structured and unstructured data may want to consider use of an enterprise clinical archive, a standards-based, centralized repository for all hospital data.  Let’s look at the six ways in which an enterprise archive can resolve data management challenges.

Improve Data Quality: An enterprise archive provides fully indexed patient data gathered from multiple disparate diagnostic applications. Consequently, when clinicians want to find specific patient information, powerful search tools make the process swift and straightforward. The archive environment is configured to enforce data quality rules on ingestion that can be maintained over time. And, as it’s built on and adheres to healthcare’s open data standards, the archive will use these standards to maintain data quality, including demographics and content synchronization.

Manage Medical Images: The enterprise archive provides a central, standards-based repository for all clinical images, regardless of the department they originate from. Medical images are sent from the source application to the ICA, where the meta-data is gathered, indexed, and the original item stored in its native format. Once ingested, the images can be searched and retrieved by the viewing application, either web-based tools provided by the archive, an existing clinical portal, or through the electronic health record. This gives individual clinicians and multi-disciplinary teams from inside and outside the organization full access to medical images and other related data, such as clinical reports, given that they have the appropriate permissions.

Complete the Patient Record: By supporting open standards, such as DICOM, HL7, and XDS, the enterprise archive avoids proprietary systems lock-in.  This helps normalize data across healthcare so that clinicians can share systems and information and diagnose and treat patients more efficiently and effectively. By enabling healthcare organizations to standardize access to the data that makes up patient records, the archive facilitates easy sharing of patient data to other applications such as the EHR and clinical portals.

Simplify Application Migration: Every 7 to 10 years, both clinical and administrative healthcare applications are replaced or upgraded. In order to achieve a smooth transition of data between a legacy and new application, the dependency between the application itself and the management of the data that it creates must be removed. The enterprise archive ingests the data (including meta-data) from all manner of applications ranging including Radiology, Cardiology, PACS, Laboratory, Electronic Document Management and Electronic Health Record systems. Now the data is being managed by the archive independently from the application. This is transparent to the application which continues to run unimpeded. The gain comes when it is time to upgrade or replace the application. Because the data is in the archive it does not need to be migrated; the new application once installed points at the archive and immediately has access to the historic data. The savings in time and effort are tremendous.

Retire Legacy Applications: The enterprise archive enables healthcare organizations to migrate their legacy data, into a secure repository, where it is stored efficiently, protected from loss or misuse and made available for sharing. Once the data is moved into the archive, the legacy applications can be retired, saving time, resource and money. The archive can even ingest and manage proprietary data formats; this requires an application that supports the proprietary format for read, but still allows the main application and its database to be retired.

Consolidate & Optimize the Storage Environment: The enterprise archive’s advanced storage management functionality acts as a broker between applications and the storage they use. This allows hospitals to pool heterogeneous storage devices and media, making them available across the healthcare facility. Using a “storage virtualization” approach, a hospital can set up rules governing the flow of data to and from its pooled storage transparently to the end-user. So, whether you are “sweating the assets” of your existing storage estate, or adding new devices, you will be able to ensure optimum utilization across all your applications, and have flexibility and choice over the way your storage infrastructure is managed.

In summary, the enterprise archive promises to usher in a new era of healthcare data management. The centralized data repository facilitates search as well as future applications, such as health analytics. And, because the data is held independent of the storage, hospitals can move to a new application without affecting their storage, or move to new storage without impacting their applications. 

Tony Cotterill is founder and chief products officer at BridgeHead Software.

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