Upgrading To A Cloud PACS? Get The Most Out Of Your Vendor.

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Things to know when upgrading to a Cloud PACS from Horos, OsiriX, and local PACS

Are you ready to take the next step and move to the Cloud? -That’s great! It may be time for an update from your local onsite PACS solution, or perhaps you’re ready to move past using your desktop viewer (like Horos or OsiriX) as your stand alone solution. Either way, we’re here to help. As with any relationship, constant and clear communication is a critical factor to ensure an optimal relationship where you get the most out of your Cloud PACS vendor. It will make your entire transition that much easier....The following are 4 important things to keep in mind during this process.

1.  Know Your Workflow

Your transition to the Cloud will vary depending on variables in your workflow, such as:

the modalities you work with,

if you need to share images with referring physicians or patients, and

if you do your own reads versus leveraging a teleradiologist.

This means that you should look for a provider who puts considerable effort into understanding your practice and having an intimate knowledge of your workflow. If your vendor isn't taking the time to learn about your workflow, and is instead just trying to push the next big thing onto you, you'll soon find out that great features are meaningless if you can't use them. Don’t fall into that trap! Get a knowledgeable and experienced vendor. They will be able to implement the right architecture for your unique use case. 

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2. Set Expectations

It all goes back to Relationships 101: communication is the key to success in any relationship, personal AND professional. Ensure that your vendor has a clear understanding of your wants and needs. They cannot be expected to deliver if they aren’t provided clear expectations. However, do set expectations for yourself as well. You should know ahead of time if your practice has unique variables which will make the solution your vendor is providing you with sub par to what you had in mind originally.

For example, if you need your imaging studies to be available for reads immediately but you have a slow internet connection; you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. In fact, you may experience a delay. However, a situation like this can be easily rectified. Communicate with your vendor and alert them of this issue early on so that the proper architecture can be implemented into your practice, allowing you to read immediately from a local cache prior to the studies being available in the Cloud. You don't need to worry about upload times, because the comparison studies will already be in your Cloud PACS. If you have a knowledgeable and experienced vendor, they most likely will suggest running a speed test at your facility prior to implementation. Ideally, they will additionally conduct a data transfer test in the size of one your existing studies to stimulate a real world scenario. 

3. Questions For Migration

If you transition to a Cloud PACS do you need this data available in the Cloud as well?

More than likely, your answer is yes. Having it accessible in the Cloud will help you get the most out of your new platform. Many Cloud based diagnostic viewers allow you to run comparisons of prior studies side-by-side. However, this is only possible if you have the previous studies stored in your Cloud PACS.

Is your data stored in a standard DICOM format that will be easy to send to your vendor?

If not, you should be sure to alert your vendor as the process will become more challenging, especially if it is in a proprietary format. If your data is in DICOM format, you should know how you will get this data to your vendor — can you transfer it over the internet, or will you have to export it to an external hard drive and send it to them physically?

How long with the data migration process take? What will the cost be?

Many vendors set their prices for legacy data migration on a per-terabyte basis. This is generally preferable to pricing on a per-study basis, which could become cost-prohibitive depending on the number of historical studies you have to import. Understand that if your data is in a nonstandard file format, you run the risk that some or all of your files may not be able to be moved into the new Cloud environment. Talk with your vendor and make sure that they have a plan for how to transfer these nonstandard files... or be comfortable with the idea that you may have to maintain some of these files within your legacy system.

4. Get Support

Don’t take on unnecessary burdens. If you have an inkling that you or your IT department is not ready to handle the task ahead, outsource this responsibility and headache to a third party that has an expertise in this matter. We recommend having some sort of a service level agreement (SLA) in place with your vendor that clearly outlines their obligations for support and maintenance, as well as how quickly they will respond. This should also include the training that your vendor will provide your staff, ensuring that they can effectively operate your new Cloud PACS.

Really, it all comes down to this: working in the medical industry, you are well versed with time sensitive emergencies. You shouldn’t have to cancel a surgery or provide care below your personal standard due to a technical issue. These are situations that can been averted if you delegate responsibilities ahead of time. Take precautions and avoid additional stress - invest in support. Honestly, you’ll save money in the long run.

Final Thought

Moving to the Cloud means that you give up some control over your system in exchange for benefits like data security and accessibility. So, make sure your vendor is taking the time to listen to you and understands what you are trying to accomplish with your transition. Both parties need to be on the same page in terms of support and services to avoid frustrations later down the road. Hence, establish constant communication and implement clear expectations to keep all parties accountable.

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