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How virtualized storage arrays help radiologists

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By Brian T. Horowitz

Virtualization and thin clients play a key role in how physicians access radiology images around a medical facility.

Centre Hospitalier Régional Universitaire (CHRU) de Lille, a hospital in France, deployed a virtualized platform to reduce costs on storage for large radiology files and speed up access to medical images.

CHRU de Lille stores, archives and retrieves information on about 400,000 radiology exams and required quick access to the data. The virtualized environment gives hospitals consistent access to critical information no matter where it is stored — on old or new infrastructure.

Virtualized storage arrays speed up diagnoses

CHRU de Lille adopted Philips Healthcare’s IntelliSpace picture archiving and communication system (PACS) platform as part of an agreement with Dell OEM Solutions. Philips was able to customize the PACS system with virtualized Dell EqualLogic PS6500E storage arrays.

The virtualized PACS system allowed Philips to reduce space, energy and cooling costs for hospitals while ensuring that physicians can access high-quality X-rays, CT scans, Magnetic Resonance images (MRIs) and ultrasounds within 3 seconds and make quicker diagnoses.

An MRI brain scan for a patient with Alzheimer’s disease can take up around 25 megabytes of space for one patient, and a body CT scan requires 1 gigabyte of storage.

With the ability to access images faster in a virtual compute environment, doctors can spend more time studying the images and working with patients. As part of a service-level agreement, Philips guarantees that customers access images in less than 3 seconds, which is faster than the average downtime of 5.7 seconds without backlog, according to a study published in the “Journal of Digital Imaging.” Every second counts when a patient has a critical illness.

Mobile access enables coordination of care

On a virtualized desktop, doctors are able to access medical images on tablets and laptops and share critical information with other colleagues.

“As care coordination and patient engagement become ever more important jobs that physicians need to perform, they need images and other clinical information while they are on the move,” Shahid Shah, CEO of IT consulting firm Netspective Communications, told Power More.

The Philips IntelliSpace Anywhere platform provides the flexibility to allow doctors to view radiology images away from their PCs.

Thin clients like Philips IntelliSpace Anywhere will increasingly untether physicians from their workstations, allowing them to access the images they need when they are on the move, with a patient or collaborating with colleagues,” Michael Kimball, product manager for enterprise imaging with Philips, told Power More.

Virtualization is a key way to access radiology images on mobile devices while keeping the data secure, because the images are not physically moved.

“If radiology images need to be made available on phones, tablets or laptops that can easily be misplaced or stolen, then virtualized storage and thin clients are the only way to allow mobile access and HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] regulatory compliance and rock-solid security because images do not need to be moved onto a portable device,” Shah said.

Reducing rack-space requirements

A virtualized storage system allows companies to reduce their rack-space requirements. Hospital CIOs can avoid purchasing new equipment as often by moving to high-density virtual storage, Shah noted.

Performance, scalability and availability were major considerations for CHRU de Lille when choosing a virtualized storage system.

“With virtualization we can fit in a single rack the same amount of clinical imaging studies that consumed six racks previously,” Philips’ Kimball said. “This is especially beneficial to hospitals with limited data center space.”

Virtualization also reduces electrical and heating ventilation and air conditioning (***) requirements for companies, Kimball noted.

Virtualizing access to medical images means a more efficient storage environment.

“A combination of virtual storage with desktop virtualization and thin clients provides the perfect architecture to make sure images and other life-saving clinical infrastructure are available but in a secure manner,” Shah said.

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