More and more, we are seeing health care facilities and medical professionals share imaging studies among referring physicians, specialists and even patients. Surgeons are taking their tablets to view scans in the operating room, diagnosing physicians are asked to evaluate advanced medical imaging such as MRIs or CT scans while on the go or on vacation, and specialists crave an easy and inexpensive way to share images with their patients.
When a medical provider relies on an onsite picture archiving and communications system (PACS), sharing imaging studies can be a tricky endeavor. Often the only way studies can be shared with an onsite PACS is through the traditional method of burning images to a CD and delivering them. But there is a way to enable sharing and mobile access without having to give up your onsite PACS - with a hybrid temporary cloud account connection to your onsite PACS.
How do you know if you are a candidate for a hybrid cloud system? And if so, how will this work with your existing PACS? The following should provide some sound advice.
How Does Temporary Cloud Storage Work?
Many providers are content with their current onsite PACS medical imaging technology, but they need an easier way to share images with patients and medical professionals. Rather than duplicating the entire system in the cloud and paying the associated costs, the provider can achieve its goals through the purchase of temporary cloud storage that contains only the most recent imaging studies that have been generated.
This makes it vastly easier for patients and professionals to access a study at the time and place of their choosing — and on a variety of devices. Meanwhile, the study is still permanently preserved on the onsite PACS, even after it has been deleted from the cloud.
Temporary cloud storage is a viable option for many providers because most imaging studies are actively accessed only for a short period of time; although by law, they must be archived for longer. For example, neurologists tend to use a study only for roughly a month, after which it is no longer actionable for them. For their temporary cloud access, providers can choose the length of time for which the images are kept — 30 days, 90 days and one year are typical periods.
Most cloud vendors can charge a very competitive rate if only temporary storage is required because the amount of storage allocated to your account hardly varies.
Is Temporary Cloud Storage the Right Choice?
Temporary image storage in the cloud gives providers all the benefits of a flexible solution without incurring the full cost of a duplicate cloud PACS. After the prescribed period, the image is purged from the cloud and once again accessible only through the onsite PACS.
For most providers, therefore, temporary cloud storage is well worth consideration. It allows for maximum convenience by letting providers keep their current PACS solution, while adding the accessibility of cloud storage. In many cases, it can serve as a stepping stone for a provider interested in transitioning in the future to a totally cloud-based solution.
There is one caveat: Some medical imaging resources are needed beyond the short term. For instance, mammograms and studies for critical diseases are always compared with previous results in order to make judgments about prognosis. In such cases, these images would only be available from the local PACS and not for comparison on the cloud platform if temporary cloud storage is used.
However, images generated for immediate diagnosis or treatment are often archived and not often reviewed after the initial shorter term flurry of demand.
It's All About Access and Mobility
Temporary cloud storage is a possibility for almost any facility with an onsite PACS and internet access, and it's a very cost-effective approach. However, the true advantage of temporary cloud storage is for doctors and patients who will feel the benefits of easier image access and sharing amongst their healthcare treatment team.