Medical imaging needs driving providers to embrace flash capacity

As medical science and related technologies evolve, one consistent requirement for healthcare organizations is going to be owning enough storage space to take on a growing amount of medical data.

Jeff Rowe | Dec 19, 2017 12:00 am

As electronic health records (EHRs), interoperability and value-based care have grown more important in healthcare, an increasing number of providers are tasking IT departments with developing, implementing and managing complex enterprise imaging (EI) strategies. 

As tech writer Michael Walter explains at HealthImaging, “one of the biggest components of any EI strategy is its ability to properly store the massive amounts of data the provider produces on a daily basis.” 

One way of looking at the storage challenge Walter points to comes from Ken Persons, IT architect of enterprise imaging systems at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Persons compares the role of storage in EI to the wireless network in your own home. You may not necessarily notice it when everything is working correctly, but when issues arise, it can result in an unsatisfactory performance you notice immediately.

“Think about if you’re at home and your Internet connection isn’t working well or your router is having issues,” Persons says. “When you’re expecting data to move, you need sufficient, reliable bandwidth available in your network. In the same way, you need sufficient, reliable capacity and bandwidth in your storage mechanisms to have a system that can respond appropriately.”

As Walter explains, most EI veterans agree that storage has become easier to manage in recent years as solutions have evolved, but challenges persist, given the ever-increasing size of the data sets being moved. And that is one reason for the rise of flash storage.

For example, he quotes Esteban Rubens, Global Enterprise Imaging Principal at Pure Storage, who explains that “while flash storage is much faster than traditional, hard-drive based storage, the most important difference is that it has extremely low latency, even under heavy loads. This is a huge deal to IT departments, because EI workloads can be very up-and-down in terms of input/output. When a big jump occurs, a lot of storage solutions respond by slowing down, but not flash storage.”

Flash storage also takes advantage of the latest cloud technologies, Walter adds, meaning providers no longer need to upgrade their storage platforms or install new equipment every few years.