Saturday, March 28, 2009

Europe poised for exponential growth in digitized medical imaging storage space

Europe poised for exponential growth in digitized medical imaging storage space
Written by Sam Collins, Contributing Writer

Article From http://healthcareitnews.eu/content/view/1413/42/

LONDON -- Medical images are increasingly becoming digitized. However, the exponential growth of digitized medical images poses an immense challenge in terms of management, compression and retrieval.

It is essential that image archive storage solution providers, picture archiving and communication system vendors and image modality manufacturers become aware of the growing requirements of storage space.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Strategic Outlook Into Archive Requirements For Image Management In Medical Imaging, finds that the total European storage requirement in 2007 was 106,044 terabytes (TB). In this research, Frost & Sullivan's expert analysts thoroughly examine medical image storage solutions markets in the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Scandinavia, Benelux and Italy.

"There is an increasing demand for digitizing medical images as opposed to the traditional film-based images," said Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Shriram Shanmugham.

"Unlike film-based images, digital images do not decay over time and can easily be stored for longer periods of time. Digitized images require less inventory space and the same image can be accessed by multiple physicians simultaneously."

Moreover, the turn-around time from the initial meeting with the physician to availing complete diagnosis is reduced. As a result, patients can expect quicker appointments with physicians and they can have permanent access to the images from remote sites.

However, certain images are not DICOM compatible and require a service-oriented approach to be archived. This is primarily because evolving healthcare standards such as DICOM and HL7 are being updated at a much slower pace than image archiving and image modality technology.

Other challenges include ensuring interoperability with hospital-based information systems. Another issue is that diagnostic procedures such as echo and angiogram generate a high resolution, large file-size images, and their long retrieval times pose a concern for hospitals.

"Some PACS vendors provide their own unique solution to archiving images that are not DICOM compatible, while others think it is wise to work around the evolving healthcare standards so that, in the future, systems interoperability is streamlined," said Shanmugham. "This trend of providing solutions to images that are not DICOM compatible will be prevalent over the next five to seven years."

The digitized medical imaging archives market requires complete cooperation among the following three major industry participants: PACS vendors, image modality manufacturers and storage solution providers. Some PACS vendors have indicated that it would be convenient for them if image modality manufacturers provided them with test data before an image modality is released into the market. By having the test data before hand, PACS vendors affirmed that they could easily establish connectivity (interoperability) of their module with the image modality.

"Hospitals cannot afford to experience an image server downtime," said Shanmugham. "It is therefore essential that storage solution providers devise innovative technology that obviates the possibility of such server downtime."

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