[Worldwide comment] One of the uncovered stories of RSNA 2012 is the increasing competition for mindshare among healthcare PACS administrators by those offering Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) technologies. In a press announcement released just prior to RSNA on 19 Nov, IMS Research reports on the options for VNA currently competing for attention:

  • PACS vendors themselves often offer VNA capabilities, sometimes terming it a “PACS Neutral Archive” rather than a VNA
  • Other PACS vendors have elected to partner with Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) who offer VNA technologies
  • ISVs of VNA solutions are gaining market share as the need to share DICOM images across departments has increased

A key point cited in the announcement, however, is that the reasons behind VNA adoption are changing.

In 2011, states IMS, “over 80 per cent of VNA studies in North America… were from managing DICOM images in multiple departments or at multiple hospital sites, reflecting that current demand is driven by the need to consolidate images and reduce image migration costs. However, as VNA penetration increases, so too will demand for larger integration of non-DICOM and non-image data.”

Critical Gaps in Current VNA Approaches

This last point, which is that demand for larger integration of non-DICOM and non-image data will grow along with demand for VNA, presents a huge challenge for current VNA technologies. The current approach is to provide a DICOM archive. However, there are missing capabilities in that archive which are required to ensure the availability of DICOM images. The missing capabilities are in the levels of protection, security and storage-agnostic flexibility which are required for modern healthcare data and storage management.

BridgeHead Software has been offering materials which attempt to educate PACS administrators on these critical gaps in VNA approaches, for DICOM images. Educational materials include a new VNA white paper and yesterday’s webinar hosted by Health Data Management. If you missed it and would like to view the recording, you can find it on the Health Data Management site.

The critical gaps in VNA approaches, along with the resulting risks to DICOM image availability, have been validated by leading healthcare consultant Joe Marion. This is important information critical for PACS administrators to understand and address, to secure and ensure availability of DICOM images for their clinicians.

What we haven’t even begun to discuss, however, is how the current approaches to VNA completely miss any handling of non-DICOM and non-image data. Once again, it is the lack of foundational archive capabilities which leave healthcare IT scrambling for a better option.

What’s the risk? Healthcare IT teams could discover too late, that the money and time spent to establish VNA have left them without the whole hospital approach that they require to lower costs, secure data and ensure its availability. A whole hospital solution is one which manages all types of data, not just DICOM images. A whole hospital solution is also one which is designed to keep DICOM images available through all types of failures, including data corruption and erroneous image deletes.

As the VNA market heats up, it will be interesting to see if organizations like IMS Research begin to sort out how the various approaches to VNA compare. Avoiding the critical gaps in VNA approaches is vital to ensure that the real benefits promised by VNA adoption can be realized by healthcare organizations now to ensure DICOM availability and, in the longer term, to provide availability of all types of hospital data.