What to do with data top of mind with healthcare execs

By Bernie Monegain
10:02 AM

No issue is more important to healthcare providers than data management, according to a new global survey of healthcare executives, conducted by BridgeHead Software, which develops and markets healthcare storage virtualization solutions.

Forty-four percent of respondents to BridgeHead Software's Healthcheck 2010 Survey of hospitals and healthcare organizations worldwide indicate that data backup/business continuity/disaster recovery is their top IT investment priority throughout 2010 and likely beyond.

The Healthcheck 2010 survey gauged the opinions of 133 healthcare executives on their most pressing IT needs. Nearly 50 percent of respondents were from the IT executive or director/manager level, and approximately 10 percent were non-IT executives. The rest included technology and medical professional with a spattering of titles and responsibilities.

The survey was made available online, and to attendees at HIMSS 2010 in Atlanta March 1-4 and at World of Healthcare IT (WoHIT) in Barcelona, March 15-18.

"The results are really telling of the state of healthcare today," said Tony Cotterill, CEO of BridgeHead Software. "As hospitals continue to transition from paper medical records to electronic systems, demand for storage technologies is escalating. This has forced providers to take a hard look at their ongoing data management strategies."

At 37.7 percent, PACS ranked second among global healthcare spending priorities followed by server virtualization at 31 percent. The survey queried individuals on their top three IT investment priorities, so responses total more than 100 percent. Archiving, digitizing patient records and storage virtualization are also high on the list.

Among U.S. providers, the emphasis placed on data backup/business continuity/disaster recovery is even more pronounced: 62.5 percent indicated it was a top IT investment priority. Server virtualization (45 percent) and data archive solutions (32.5 percent) round out the top three priorities.

Medical imaging to drive growth

These investment trends reflect a current and anticipated rise in data volume growth, according to survey results.

Forty-one percent of respondents anticipate annual increases in data volume of up to 25 percent, with an additional 18 percent indicating they could see data volume rise between 25 percent and 50 percent per year.

A relatively small 100-bed hospital will generate approximately 60GB of new digital content per-bed per-year, requiring an additional six terabytes of storage space annually, according to Cotterill,  "This doesn't even include storage-intensive digital imaging technologies such as PACS data, which is projected as the largest growth area," he said.

A majority of global survey respondents whose data volume has increased attributed the growth to an increased number of digital imaging files. Scanned documents such as proof of insurance and files held in the electronic medical record followed close behind. In the United States, respondents were split between digital imaging and scanned documents as the main drivers of data volume growth.