Vendor-neutral archives (VNAs) were originally conceived as central repositories that connect multiple systems and eliminate the need for costly and disruptive data migrations. But as they have evolved, it’s evident that their value to a health system is well beyond that of a “store and forget” repository. When VNAs are deployed in the service of a comprehensive enterprise imaging strategy they become more than a data aggregator and are able to powerfully—and positively—impact clinical operations.
Giving all departments access to a central archive simplifies IT integrations and can eliminate the need to migrate data. But an effective VNA can enable better decision-making at the point of care by integrating EMR data, images and imaging-related clinical data. To achieve this integration, it’s essential that a vendor commits to interoperability – and not only the ability to expose data through standards, but also the ability to consume data from other systems so it can be incorporated into clinical workflows.
Create longitudinal patient imaging record
When properly implemented in conjunction with other relevant clinical systems, a VNA can create a longitudinal patient imaging record by bringing together information in disparate systems while leaving that data in its native format. When a VNA can ingest and store both DICOM and non-DICOM material in its native format, it can provide patient data from across the enterprise and make it accessible through a single interface.
Storing all data from across the enterprise in its native format, regardless of where it originated is critical to maintaining data integrity and to ensuring that the legal source of the information remains unchanged. This approach also lets the VNA efficiently return the object to its original source in its original format when necessary, which in turn speeds up the return time for a record.
Within a VNA strategy, one of the integral considerations for a health system must be how they handle DICOM and non-DICOM data and how this data is used by their clinicians. For example, If the non-DICOM information received is imaging data like medical photography or videos, it’s advisable to store them in their native format so they can be moved easily to the appropriate viewer. If the non-DICOM data is documentation like a lab report, insurance claim or clinical notes, then FHIR® or other standards may be preferable interfaces.
Interoperability is the key to sharing this data since it’s this data sharing can help streamline and simplify the complex processes in a health system to help them efficiently and effectively manage core operations. VNA interoperability involves more than merely storing and managing data. It’s also about allowing ready access to all types of imaging data, and ensuring the format works for all end users, whether they are clinicians or IT focused.
When looking at your imaging strategy, be sure that your infrastructure supports your clinical workflows and, ultimately, your care delivery system as a whole, not only for today’s needs but for those in the future. When a VNA supports pull, push and hybrid flow models, it can intelligently access relevant data from across your enterprise and help you achieve the best of both worlds for both your clinical and IT teams.
*FHIR is a registered trademark of Health Level Seven International.