[North America comment] Last week, hurricane Sandy hit close to home for many of us at BridgeHead Software. Our North American operations are headquartered just outside of Boston, in Woburn Massachusetts. Many of our employees – including myself – live and work along the east coast. Several of us are located in New Jersey which, as the world knows, bore the brunt of the slow-moving ‘perfect’ storm early last week.

Because BridgeHead focuses exclusively on healthcare data management, we know that healthcare data is different from other types of data. We also understand that healthy patient care depends on healthy patient data. Caring for a patient’s electronic record, consisting of medical images and other types of data, is an extension of patient care, and we take this mission seriously.

This mission was on my mind last week as I watched reports of hospital closings and patient relocations. In New York, University Langone Medical Center was forced to relocate more than 200 patients on Monday evening. On Tuesday, Brooklyn’s Coney Island Hospital followed suit moving about 180 patients to nearby facilities. Two other New York hospitals emptied beds ahead of Sandy, and hospitals in New Jersey appeared even harder hit.

These days, when patients transfer from hospital to hospital, access to their online records must move with them. If you work in healthcare then you are familiar with the multitude of applications that hospitals use to support patient care, all of which contribute to the online records for their patients. Managing all of the data generated by these systems is a tough challenge. Even within the walls of a single hospital, sharing data among the clinicians and other healthcare professionals who need access is tough. Maintaining that access through disasters like Sandy is even tougher. Add in the need to provide a patient’s records to an alternative hospital when patients must be evacuated, and the system complexity can be overwhelming.

Assisting in the challenge of making all of these records accessible, are technologies like Vendor Neutral Archives (VNAs). The point of a VNA is to enable records created in one brand of PACS application to be transferred and used in another brand of PACS. However, standard VNAs are still vulnerable to image loss day-to-day from disk failures, silent data corruption, and erroneous file deletes. These archives are also completely unprotected in most environments for disaster recovery purposes. When an event like hurricane Sandy occurs, the importance of adopting a comprehensive approach to data management for healthcare records is more obvious than ever.

[If you would like more information on how images stored in standard VNA repositories remain vulnerable to loss and what you can do about it, you can see our new white paper.]

BridgeHead will be providing new information in the upcoming weeks on how our approach to VNA is unique, offering the key building blocks to help healthcare IT teams to establish centralized DICOM and non-DICOM repositories, ensure that images are protected, and provide for disaster recovery. Check this blog for updates and links as we make them available. Also, if you’re coming to this year’s RSNA event in Chicago later this month, come and talk to us at our booth number 214. Our experts in Healthcare Data Management will be available to discuss your challenges in managing patient data, and ensuring that you are able to store, protect and share those records even under the most challenging conditions. Conditions like the next hurricane Sandy.