The Short and Long of It: Benefits of a Vendor Neutral Archive
Vendor neutral archives are designed to help reduce resource and financial pressures. The flexibility and neutrality of these radiology imaging archives provide key short- and long-term benefits for healthcare executives looking to offload time and cost.
Whether you need short-term relief from expensive PACS archives, or are looking to overhaul your entire imaging system, a vendor neutral archive (VNA) may be the answer.
Here are key short- and long-term VNA benefits for your imaging infrastructure:
Short-Term VNA Benefits
1. Helps ease access to images
VNAs help eliminate proprietary file formats that exist among disparate PACS and ultimately support greater departmental integration. With a VNA, radiologists are able to gain automatic access to a patient’s full clinical history from anywhere, through electronic health records, regardless of the department of origin.
2. Supports better collaboration between caregivers
Adopting a vendor neutral strategy helps give healthcare providers a more complete record of patient data, allowing centralized access to all available DICOM and non-DICOM images. However, it is the addition of an enterprise viewer that helps enable collaboration among departments and caregivers.
“The VNA gives the organization all of the data management tools required to build the complete longitudinal patient medical record, including both structured (DICOM and non-DICOM images) and unstructured data, thus replacing many individual disparate data repositories and viewing applications,” noted Michael Gray, Principal of Gray Consulting, in the white paper, The Anatomy of a Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) Done Right: The Case for Silo Busting.
Long-Term VNA Benefits
1. Helps reduce user interfaces
A VNA centralizes image management into a single point of connectivity across the organization. Over time, that single point of distribution will allow providers to reconcile patient records across multiple departments.
2. Helps reduce PACS maintenance fees and PACS updates
Many of the traditional costs associated with PACS can be reduced or even eliminated by migrating to a VNA. These include resource costs from moving data between PACS, changing storage platforms, adding additional PACS, adding modalities, or integrating additional applications.
Migration to a centralized VNA can help reduce the time needed to complete these maintenance tasks, allowing healthcare teams to reallocate their existing resources toward patient care.
3. Supports improved storage utilization
Moving from PACS to a VNA can also streamline your entire storage management process. As healthcare data becomes more complex, using consistent storage solutions can provide more intelligent data management. Effective utilization also requires the understanding and creating of clear policy around what, where and how long to keep each study.
“We’ve now documented our retention policy for everything,” said Shelly Susong, a senior application analyst in Radiology Information Systems at Covenant Health in East Tennessee. “The state of Tennessee says we need to keep images for four years. We decided to err on the side of caution and retain images for five years — including the pediatric images. Because we want to do the right thing for our clinicians and our patients. With the backing of the executive leadership, we were able to get past a lot of confusion, work together, get buy-in from all parties, and come up with the right policy for us.”
Dr. Rasu Shrestha, UPMC Chief Innovation Officer, said, “Decoupling of the PACS from the archive also allows for intelligent information lifecycle management policies to be put in place and policed, centrally, and with more uniformity and control. As organizations mature, and information systems grow in number and complexity, it is critical to be able to centrally manage and utilize the data intelligently, especially for effective clinical use.”
4. Helps lower administrative resources and costs
Proprietary PACS machines naturally create silos of data only one department can access. If a radiology department needed access from a cardiology PACS without a centralized database, the process would require various migrations and conversions, along with valuable resource time.
“Centrally managed storage solutions have been shown to lead to reduced total cost of ownership in a relatively short period of time, and multi-phased progressive VNA deployments have been shown to bear good returns,” said Shrestha.
5. Analytics and quality improvement
In the growing world of value-based care, radiologists can turn to VNAs for analytical help in improving quality of care. Better access to patient information allows radiologists to effectively analyze outcomes and make critical patient care decisions.
As my colleague Ohad Arazi said, “All the data that is collected from past reports becomes an important tool that can then be fed into clinical decision support systems. Investment in analytics can drive appropriateness, and tools that can create a dialogue between imaging specialists and referring physicians using evidence-based analytics can drive up value.”
Pursuing a vendor neutral solution can have both short- and long-term benefits, including helping to reduce excess costs and simplifying image management across the health enterprise.