Hospitals grapple with ‘enormous deluge of data’

June 28, 2012 in Medical Technology

WOBURN, MA – Health IT professionals say disaster recovery and business continuity are their most pressing needs when it comes to dealing with huge and ever-growing volumes of health data, according to a new survey from BridgeHead Software. Storage is a sticking point too, but the cloud is “still not ready for prime time.”

BridgeHead’s second-annual Healthcare Data Management (HDM) survey points out that the healthcare industry worldwide generates approximately 30 percent of the world’s data, “a massive amount that increases day after day.”

Indeed, 65 percent of respondents to the survey said their data volumes had increased over the previous year. On the other hand, just 26 percent reported having “robust, tried-and-tested” disaster recovery plans in place.

As such, disaster recovery was hospitals’ top investment priority for the second straight year. But the exponential growth of data spurred by EHRs and, especially, imaging systems means such projects are a big challenge.

[See also: Hospitals unprepared for flood of data to come.]

“Backup and disaster recovery is a complex landscape for healthcare,” wrote Bridgehead CEO Jim Beagle. “With the enormous amounts of digital information that hospitals have to manage, it is increasingly difficult to ensure backups are completed in the available time windows and that the appropriate copies are made to the appropriate storage media to enable the execution of a comprehensive DR strategy. This challenge becomes more complex, time-consuming and expensive as data continues to grow.”

PACS applications were cited as the number-one reason for healthcare data growth, at 63 percent, followed by files held in the electronic health record (54 percent) and scanned documents such as proof of insurance (51 percent).

“Because of the ever-widening scope of medical image technologies, and the frequency and size of the images that modalities are now able to produce, the rate of data growth in imaging outside of radiology is actually much faster than in radiology itself, particularly in areas such as digital pathology,” said Beagle.

Some 32 percent of respondents said they planned to move to a new PACS within the next five years.

Other findings from the survey:

  • 90 percent said their facilities had a plan to go at least partially paperless with their electronic patient records
  • 64 percent said their organizations had some kind of disaster recovery strategy in place, but the majority (38 percent) had never been tested
  • 35 percent said their facilities did not have a plan to reduce data center carbon emissions
  • 45 percent said their facilities were planning a major storage upgrade (1 terabyte or more) in the next year.

With storage such a critical issue, decision-makers were still skeptical of the cloud as an option, however – despite the buzz surrounding that approach. Most remained unconvinced that the strategy is secure or efficient. Just 10 percent of respondents listed cloud storage among their top three IT investment priorities; 47.9 precent said security concerns were the chief reason for not adopting cloud storage.

[See also: Data storage of top concern to healthcare providers.]

The BridgeHead survey did find hospitals actively investing in data management technologies, affecting interoperability, data access, IT efficiency, reducing IT costs, energy efficiency and disaster recovery.

But with data proliferating faster than ever, the challenges remain acute.

“In the face of unstoppable data growth, it is becoming a serious challenge for hospitals to store and protect patient data while also making it available for clinicians in a timely manner at the point of care,” said Beagle.

For more on the survey’s results, click here.

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