Let’s face it, everyone wants to save money! It doesn’t matter if you are a physician, a hospital administrator, a lawyer - everyone, even your next door neighbor is trying to find a way to save. The healthcare industry is as such that with reimbursements being pinched, looking at your checkbook can become an overwhelming feeling. As a result of trying to be more economical, we all fall into the trap of becoming hesitant to invest in what is required to truly become more efficient in our businesses. For a physician, it might feel safer to gravitate towards the low-cost desktop medical imaging viewer, or perhaps free open source software that runs that on your PC. In fact, you might even want to store your images there. While we applaud your initiative, we have some suggestions on where you can save money.
Is There An Inexpensive In-House PACS?
If you are an avid Horos or OsiriX user, your laptop or desktop computer is most likely precious to you. If a desktop viewer works for you, that’s great! However, do consider the terrifying risk of losing all of your data. Long story short, your PC is NOT an optimal storage solution for medical images. The capacity to hold the storage is joke compared to the other options available to you. One of the alternatives to storing your images on your PC is a relatively inexpensive on-site PACS. Typically these are comprised of a computer server connected with direct attached storage in the form of a RAID.
A RAID (redundant array of independent disks) is a set of disks that is more resilient than a single disk in the event of a disk failure. If configured correctly, one or more of the disks can take over and protect that data that was previously housed on a disk which failed (because technology does that sometimes). This process occurs automatically, without human intervention required... Confused? Check out our blog: What The Heck Is A RAID Array? Why Do I Need One For Medical Imaging?
An onsite PACS is not free, but with careful navigation you should be able to find an affordable configuration, at the smallest end, for less than $2,500 USD. -Larger systems can be purchased for less than $5,000 USD.
Is There A Way To Pay As You Go?
If outright purchase of a PACS is still beyond your budget, a great way to handle the need for a PACS AND offsite backup is with the Cloud. Not only can the Cloud be used as your primary PACS, but it also ensures you have offsite backups. And guess what? - There typically is no maintenance fee. That’s right, Cloud fees are all inclusive and you get much more flexible sharing, access, and mobility than you would from an on-site PACS. This is probably the most economical (and reliable) solution up to date. A Cloud PACS can be licensed for about $100 USD per month. You’ll most likely have an initial setup fee ranging from $500 USD to $1,000 USD; depending upon the complexity of your configuration.
We always recommend that in addition to regular backups of your PACS, you also obtain a support contract from the manufacturer or vendor. As with any technology, unless you are ready, willing and able to completely support the solution today, it's the smartest (and in the long run, the most economical) option. This way, if you have a hardware or software issue, you have an expert to contact, who takes the role and responsibility of resolving your concerns. Support contracts typically range from 20-25% of the purchase price of the PACS, paid annually.
Don't Forget To Backup!
Don’t forget when you are pricing out a system that you MUST include a backup facility. A standalone PACS is far better than using your PC. However, we always suggest that you backup your RAID as well. Despite the disk redundancy, we are not fans of having all of your data in one geography, no matter how resilient it is. The point is that if a natural or manmade disaster swallowed your data center, where your RAIDS reside; that data, unless it was backed up, would be lost. The Cloud completes the ultimate backup plan. It ensures data storage that cannot be affected by such disasters that would lead to permanent loss of data. Hence, instead of relying solely on your PC, get a good backup strategy in play. Backup your PC with a local PACS. Backup your local PACS with a RAID. And finally, backup your RAID with the Cloud.
How Much Do You Owe?
When you put all this together, at the very low end, you should expect to spend $2,500 USD on the hardware, $500 USD annually for maintenance, and something in the range of $50-$100 USD per month for Cloud backup. Cloud backup may sound expensive, but typically a Cloud backup of your PACS ensures that you get instant access to your backup data if your on-site PACS goes down. The alternative local PACS solution and PC solution, which come hand in hand with non-efficient backup strategies will cost you significantly more in the long run. Remember, technology is fallible. If you don't have a strong architecture supporting your medical imaging storage, you are tempting fate...and the permanent loss of your medical images.
Depending upon your budget, technical prowess, and willingness to do it yourself, there is a PACS solution for you. Desktop medical imaging viewers can certainly save you money, but are not the most reliable storage solutions. On-Site PACS, if carefully shopped, can be quite affordable, but even they can succumb to data loss due to natural or man-made disasters. However, for those seeking the most reliable and efficient solution for medical imaging storage, sharing, access, and mobility- the Cloud is the way to go. It is extremely cost effective, and you or your staff do not need to worry about the technical back end operations-because your vendor takes on that responsibility. Compared to even an inexpensive on-site PACS, it will take several years for you to spend as much with a Cloud solution as you would with an on-site PACS. By optimizing your infrastructure, you can ensure fast, robust and disaster proof access to the medical images you have in storage.