Medical imaging, today is at the core of modern medicine. Digital image availability at the point of care depends largely on how well the data is stored. It is important to understand the subtle differences in storage and archive first. When one talks of storage of any data, mainly two aspects are of highest concern – high availability and efficient retrieval.
Availability is an on-going battle against ‘Murphy’s laws’. It is not uncommon to have a hi-tech device failing when it is needed the most. Most architects of highly available systems tackle it with redundancy! They get more hard discs to duplicate the data, use redundant network switches or cabling or even make the entire server hardware redundant too. So if one component fails, another redundant counterpart takes over. All this happens automatically, without the user actually getting to know about the failure in one of the components. Of course, software designed to achieve this plays an equally important role.
In the healthcare environment, it is not enough to have the data available at any given time. How quickly this data reaches the Consultant, Surgeon etc. when requested, will make the difference between life and death at times.
Thus, efficient retrieval means the data has to be intelligently prioritised – anticipating the need. The system should utilise the best technology available to communicate data at multiple points of care without delay. High availability and efficient retrieval together, is referred to as on-line data.
When we talk of archiving of digital images, the main focus is on longevity and permanence of the record. Stringent legal guidelines in the West require all the records of the patient to be preserved. Even in case of a catastrophe and destruction of online storage, the data has to be kept intact physically at another place.
A clinician would ideally desire that all the data should be available online as well as stored as a back up permanently and separately, so that both requirements are met. Storage on Google is one such example where users have all their data on-line, always! But intelligent archive is the best bet for the healthcare industry. The online data can be restricted, balancing clinical requirement and affordability. Typically 3 to 12 TB online space, gradually upgraded over 3 to 5 years meets requirements of most of the hospitals ranging from 100 to 700 beds. But archives are faced with ever growing data, and it needs to be planned carefully.
Blu-ray archive arrives in India
AIIMS, New Delhi has become the first site in India for implementing Blu-ray technology based archive for Philips BIG BORE CT scanner installed in Dr B R Ambedkar-Rotary Cancer Hospital. This scanner is aimed at routine radiology studies as well as radiation therapy simulation.
21st Century Health Management Solutions provided Advanced Imaging System for Blu-ray archival and DICOM communication. The archive is scalable and can address larger archival requirements. Aniruddha Nene, Principal Consultant and Director- Imaging, 21st Century Health Management Solutions remarks that Blu-ray technology is the optimal choice for permanent archive with life of the media exceeding 50 years and size exceeding 50GB per media.
Conventional methods of Archiving and Blu-ray technology
Information Technology in healthcare lags behind its counterparts in banking, manufacturing etc. Most of the other industries have long implemented and optimised archival methods to suit their own requirement. But the requirements of healthcare data archival are totally different from other industries. The sheer size of data is the key differentiator.
Conventional methods used are hard discs (other than online archival tools), tapes, tape libraries, CD / DVD, juke, Magneto Optical Discs (MOD).
Blu-ray is an emerging technology in optical storage. The precision of Blu-ray burning is depicted below:
Blu-ray media discs referred to as BD have a life expectancy of 50 years and are expected to go beyond 100 years as technology matures.
It is environment friendly with the least consumption of power for archive libraries / robotics owing to large data size per media. Currently 50GB discs are commercially available. The size is expected to reach 100 GB per media soon.
Blu-ray drives/Jukes are typically backward compatible to CD / DVD.
Right choice of the solution
Blu-ray based archive has the least cost of ownership of all other types. Please refer to the chart of technology comparison.
Indian healthcare industry has been witnessing Information Technology transformation in recent times. We do not have large legacy systems to be migrated to the latest technology. Indian healthcare industry can leapfrog to adopt the latest archival technology easily and quickly.
Blu-ray technology appears to be a clear winner among the other technologies. Until the next avatar of technology, the holographic storage becomes practical Blu – ray will dominate the archive market.