Storing images safely in the cloud is difficult in the best of circumstances. That's because images tend be very large, stressing both networks and storage systems.
It's even more complicated for organizations dealing with medical images. These images can be massive, and the data is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other regulations, presenting regulatory challenges. That makes it difficult for organizations to use the same tools for medical imaging storage that they use for storage of other data.
In fact, medical imaging is one of the largest sources of next-generation, mission-critical data and has security, availability and archival requirements far beyond those of most enterprise applications.
Healthcare imaging vendor Dicom Systems, in concert with Google, is attempting to address these medical imaging storage issues with its Unifier Cloud Archive. The cloud-based solution combines Dicom Systems' technology with Google's HIPAA-compliant interfaces. It integrates all images of a health information system into a data lake.
Google Cloud has developed a platform for hybrid cloud with world-class security and a commitment to HIPAA security. Customers are able to access a highly secure infrastructure managed by Google Cloud that goes beyond storage to include data analysis, developer tools and artificial intelligence (AI) building blocks.
According to Dicom Systems, Unifier Cloud Archive serves as a bridge between on-premises systems and the cloud, allowing organizations to access data from a highly secure infrastructure managed by Google Cloud.
Improving Disaster Recovery
The goal, said Dicom SystemsExecutive Vice President Florent Saint-Clair, is to improve the disaster recovery process. It does that by ensuring uninterrupted patient imaging operations whether picture archiving communication system (PACS) downtime was planned or unplanned.
"When a healthcare system's PACS goes down, the need for disaster recovery and business continuity must go hand in hand so mission-critical clinical workflows can continue," he said.
Combining Dicom Systemstechnology with the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) makes sense, said Steve McDowell, senior analyst for storage and data center technologies at Moor Insights & Strategy.
"This is an area where Amazon is uncharacteristically lagging. You can build HIPAA-compliant solutions from AWS offerings, but it requires effort," he said. "Google Cloud provides a core set of capabilities out-of-the-box."
Saint-Clair pointed to the real-time usability of Dicom Systems objects as an important differentiator.
"Our DRaaS [disaster recovery as a service] lets our customers not only store the data into any chosen cloud in natively Dicom format, but it also enables the Dicom objects to be queried, retrieved and viewed in a zero-footprint viewer sitting on top of our archive. In other words, the cloud archive can be used as a real-time source for relevant prior images," he said.
The Unifier Cloud Archive also can serve as a de-identification engine for providers who choose to become a part of machine learning projects, Saint-Clair said.
"AI development requires massive amounts of data to teach anything to an algorithm, and HIPAA requires that the images used in this process be completely untraceable back to the patient," he explained. "Feeding those data from a live clinical archive could be disruptive to clinical workflows. However, if the de-identification and machine learning processes are leveraging a cloud backup archive as the data source, there is no interference with clinical workflows and no impact on patient care."
Among the more mainstream enterprise DRaaS providers, both Veeam and Datrium have solutions targeted for healthcare. McDowell said that as far as he knows, however, Dicom Systems' is the first turnkey solution for backing up HIPAA-compliant medical imaging to the cloud.