Challenges of Moving Medical Imaging Into The Cloud

2013-04-29
 

Medical Imaging In The CloudNetworking and privacy issues are top concerns for managing imaging data in the cloud, which was a topic addressed at the recent RNSA conference. According to Fred Prior, PhD, of Washington University in St. Louis, cloud computing can offer many advantages to medical imaging, but effective project management is crucial to realize any cost savings.

Is the Cloud Implying a False Sense of Security?

Placing the word “cloud” into a computing technology gives the uninitiated a false sense of unlimited space and infallible security. Well, not all networks are created equal. For teaching hospitals affiliated with a university, radiologists are most likely spoiled by the easy access to a high-speed university network. The assumption is that they can push medical images to the “cloud” quickly and with little thought.

Remember, medical imaging files are huge and measured in terabytes. When you send data outside the university’s walls, bandwidth speed slows way down. A busy radiologist, used to working through files quickly, will soon tire of the start and stutter of a slow connection. What’s acceptable on a smart phone won’t cut it in clinical practice.

We live in an age of speed with demands for more bandwidth growing every day. As a provider, you need to identify your true needs for capacity and storage, privacy and security. This is the time to be honest; can your IT infrastructure handle the cloud?

Are the Compliance Requirements of Moving to the Cloud Worth it?

Another important area of consideration when weighing the desirability of moving medical imaging into the cloud is regulatory compliance.  Are you able to comply with the implementation specs, federal HIPPA requirements and all their complexity?

For example, the Journal of the Medical Informatics Association issued their perspective on how to reconcile cloud computing with federal EHR regulations. The Security Rule alone contains 42 implementation specifications (table 2) that are “sufficiently broad and complex to elicit the publication of multiple articles and books that attempt to explain and simplify them,” wrote the author.

The impact of choosing cloud computing for medical imaging cannot be overstated. Whether you choose a cloud storage vendor or decide to bring the “cloud” in house, be aware of the full implications of this evolving technology.

Has your organization moved medical imaging into the cloud?  If so, please feel free to submit a comment below, sharing your experiences.

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