October 19, 2010
Featured Article
Avoid a PACS archiving disaster

That simple tape back-up system included in your PACS probably can't handle a major blow.

The situation that confronted Inter-Lakes Health's Moses-Ludington Hospital when its PACS archive crashed was grim, and things only turned darker when the organization's IT department discovered that the vendor-installed tape back-up system had been malfunctioning.

"If it weren't for InDex VNA archiving managed service, about 9,000 patient exams would have been completely wiped out," says Lisa Busby, MSIA, CISSP, Moses-Ludington CIO. "The hospital maintains a strong commitment to timely, high-quality patient care. As a result, our IT department had decided that the simple tape back-up system included in our PACS wasn't sufficient to safeguard our important medical images, and we sought a better solution."

The hospital partnered with InSite One for offsite archiving with disaster recovery for business continuance. Years later, that smart decision enabled complete, timely recovery of all its potentially lost images, and patient care kept moving forward.

Moses-Ludington is a 15-bed, critical-access hospital located in Ticonderoga, N.Y. It provides an advanced emergency room operating 24/7, outpatient surgical services and a helicopter landing pad for ultra-fast emergency patient transport. The radiology department, which performs CT, CR and ultrasound services, relies on a teleradiology group for timely exam interpretation - with no onsite radiologist staffing. Given this situation, the hospital's PACS provides the mission-critical communications essential to keeping radiology work flow on time and on target.

While PACS offers the state-of-the art features and functionality that boosted patient care and department productivity, according to Busby, its back-up design did not follow suit. "On this system, the PACS supports only tape media as a secondary archive," she says. "Not surprisingly, I felt tape was too unreliable and unwieldy for this purpose. When the vendor suggested that we back up our data onsite and manually transport it to an offsite location every evening, I knew the time had come to find a better answer."

Heading up the search, Busby initially considered purchasing, installing and maintaining a hospital-owned system. But while she felt the security of an offsite archiving location was essential to meet the needs of the hospital and its patients, Moses-Ludington did not have access to another facility for hardware.

For Busby, using an offsite archiving service provider emerged as the best solution, which at the same time eliminated all archive maintenance and the capital expense of archiving hardware. After looking at a number of providers, Busby was convinced that InSite One's InDex VNA was the best option.

"We discovered that InSite One is the only vendor specializing in DICOM storage," she says. "The company has had an unrivaled depth of experience in the storage of radiology images and related data. Moreover, it came highly recommended by other imaging sites."

InSite One's InDex also offers a full range of services that can be tailored to a customer's needs to address the elimination of CDs through secure electronic sharing of data. All easy-to-use services are offered with cost-effective fee-per-study pricing.

Busby also notes that the company offered the hospital another important benefit: business continuity. In the event of a PACS failure, Moses-Ludington's teleradiologists could continue to view images directly from the archive using InSite One's sophisticated Web interface.

Implementation was simple and problem-free. Immediately, the InDex system functioned seamlessly and reliably in the background, as images flowed automatically from PACS storage to InDex's state-of-the-art primary data center in Wallingford, Conn., and a secondary data center in Arizona. Then, the unthinkable happened (unthinkable for many except Busby and her team): the PACS archive failed. When the PACS vendor disaster team rushed to the scene, instead of remedying the situation, all the system's disks were completely erased.

Compounding the problem, the back-up tape drive contained absolutely no data to restore. Unfortunately, the hospital found the system had been failing before the crash, with no failure alerts.

Once notified, InSite One's dedicated staff was available immediately to access the offsite archive and transfer Moses-Ludington's valuable data back to hospital storage. "The InSite One staff was extremely responsive, knowledgeable and helpful. The restoration process took less than a day," recalls Busby.

"If Moses-Ludington had not partnered with InSite One, we would have lost everything and exposed the hospital to all sorts of additional difficulties," she says. "Clearly, the InDex VNA service was well worth the cost, paying for itself many times by resolving this one incident."

For more information on InSite One, click here.

Lessons to live by

The cost of managing data for the "life" of the data is often mistakenly assessed to be solely the cost of the physical storage, and the costs associated with storing and protecting the data are frequently overlooked - that is until an event occurs that creates a focus on what has suddenly become a much larger problem. The costs of recovery, restoring data and applications are often magnitudes greater than the initial storage costs. Exploring these issues up front when considering long-term storage strategies for data management can dramatically reduce recovery costs and provide for business continuance.

InSite One InDex Vendor Neutral Enterprise Archive (VNA) concurrently supports over 28 different PACS as a service-in-a-cloud storage platform, and the company has been doing so for over a decade. During this time, many clients have changed applications without data migration because of the standards-based InDex solution. T, which includes on-demand access and the ability to share data at the point of patient care.

Application-specific data management can be tied directly to the clinical process used for diagnostic reporting at the point of care. However, there is much more data within the global repository that has value, both to the clinical practice and the patients they serve. Also, the industry is evolving around quality measurements in best practices, and having data in a form that is sustainable, along with the ability to share that data, has become an operational imperative.

InDex VNA and Business Continuance Services provides a long-term solution as a managed service for maintaining and sharing of information among clinical applications and providers of healthcare.

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