Originally published on InContext, a Lexmark website. 

The medical imaging needs of Healthcare Delivery Organizations (HDOs) are evolving. As more clinical specialties incorporate medical images into their practice, the ability to access and manage images from a variety of different enterprise systems becomes all the more critical.

Historically, Radiology, Nuclear Medicine, and Cardiology departments were the hubs for medical imaging within HDOs, and PACS systems providing the features, functionality and workflow necessary to access, manage and interpret these images. However, traditional PACS are built using proprietary code sets that are unique to a chosen vendor. These proprietary solutions can make image sharing within and outside the enterprise complicated and costly, especially when trying to incorporate specialty images (e.g. Dermatology, Gastroenterology, Pathology, etc.) that fall outside traditional PACS parameters.

PACS also puts HDOs in a constant state of flux when it comes to features, enhancements and quality of service. For example, the storage infrastructure of a traditional PACS is built on a disruptive technical and financial model. As a result, it is not uncommon that significant hardware changes are required to reduce the total cost of ownership of enterprise storage. These factors often force HDOs into a high storage abandonment and upgrade rate in order to gain the increased flexibility and capabilities they desire from their PACS.

Today, HDOs need a Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) that can integrate all unstructured data and content-enable their enterprise. A true VNA, however, also needs to address emerging reimbursement and information management drivers by delivering attributes that help HDOs enhance patient care, standardize workflows and achieve cost savings. As such, a true VNA must provide many functions that don’t exist in traditional PACS technology. The most important of these capabilities include:

  1. The VNA should be capable of pre-fetching relevant and filtered prior studies. Also, the VNA should be able to auto-route data to any functional PACS system to support the ongoing use of that application if required.
  2. The VNA should also support post-fetching that allows a query to both the VNA and the final destination to assure that the VNA doesn’t have studies that exist in the destination system.
  3. Dynamic DICOM Tag Morphing is the process of mapping or remapping data elements that exist within the DICOM image. Tag Morphing is an important feature as it allows migration of studies from PACS systems that are either being migrated or decommissioned into the VNA for future access. The ability to morph this data within DICOM can be critical to providing easy access in the future.
  4. A true VNA provides built-in software for the support and management of data migrations. During these migrations, the VNA should allow unfettered access to prior studies within the legacy archive system, essentially federating this system as the new VNA comes online. A true VNA supports on-demand migration of the entire imaging jacket for all patients. Having a solution that provides software and experience with both study and media direct migrations is critically important to HDOs wishing to take ownership of their imaging information.
  5. Finally, and most importantly, the VNA should be vendor neutral, even to the point of being vendor neutral to itself. A true VNA supports multiple viewing technologies using a variety of protocols. It should allow the viewing experience to be customized to meet the needs of each clinical specialty area and support cacheless zero-footprint viewing technologies so imaging studies can be obtained directly from the VNA.

There are many VNA solutions available, but not all VNAs are created equal. By following the above guidelines, you can ensure the VNA you select allows you to optimize your imaging environment today and into the future.

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