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Growth in medical image volumes fuels migration to cloud solutions

As we have moved past the innovator stage and well into the early adopter phase of the cloud in imaging, says one expert, now is the time for cloud solutions to unleash their untapped potential.

Jeff Rowe | Mar 05, 2018 12:00 am

Why would anybody move confidential patient data off-premises and willingly become dependent on a network or vendor to access data they already own?

That’s the question Nadim Michel Daher, principal health IT at Frost & Sullivan, recently asked at OpenAccessGovernment.

There are, of course, many answers to that question, but Daher hones in on the explosion in medical imaging data.  As he sees it, “the unending growth in image data volumes, coupled with long-term data retention policies in place, makes traditional storage upgrade and scale-up mechanisms clearly unsustainable over the long run. This is why, since the early 2000s, Cloud-based solutions have provided a viable alternative to tape- and truck-based solutions for the long-term archival of medical image studies. While this early adoption has enabled many providers to get their feet wet with Cloud solutions, there is actually so much more today to Cloud use than mere back-office data storage support.”

Two “simultaneous and complementary market trends,” Daher says, are pushing imaging informatics ever-further into the cloud: “ the continuous expansion of medical imaging applications into niche subspecialty clinical areas and the ongoing diversification in the points of care where medical multimedia content is produced and consumed by various enterprise imaging stakeholders."

Imaging archiving, distribution, diagnosis and analytics are the specific core application areas for  cloud use, Daher says, and the upshot is that while cloud-based imaging informatics still represents a relatively small market, “the market is expected to remain on a very strong growth trajectory over the next few years, growing to $830.5 million in 2021, or an impressive compound annual growth rate of 23.8 percent.”

Not surprisingly, Daher cautions that “transitioning to a cloud-based imaging IT model is no easy shift, whether for healthcare providers or for vendors. Both have to align with the new purchasing, business, management and governance models that this shift entails and to be able to absorb its unconventional operational, security and financial risk profiles.”

Nonetheless, he adds, now is the time for cloud solutions to unleash their untapped potential.

“By enabling greater data usability for advanced imaging analytics, accelerating interoperability imaging research initiatives, or converging with healthcare blockchains, the cloud will be, without a doubt, a pervasive actor in the ongoing transformation of the medical imaging value chain.”