In today’s healthcare environment, data is essential to the business of caring for the patient. In fact, over the last several years, the capture and storage of data in the healthcare environment has grown at an exponential rate, as medical facilities of all sizes have moved more clinical content into their electronic medical records/electronic health records (EHRs). Some estimates say that there is 70 percent growth per year, because medical organizations are adding so much more clinical data to storage and compute functions.

If your organization doesn’t have robust and efficient data storage solutions in this fast-growing environment, you may not only be unable to keep up with industry and patient demands, but you may also run afoul of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other mandates.

For example, when it comes to data retention, the mandate is complex and can be tough to fulfill. Let’s look at X-rays. Each state has different requirements, but as an example, in some states healthcare facilities are required to retain radiology images for seven years, with numerous exceptions. X-rays of infants and children must be kept for 23 years and X-rays taken as part of a clinical trial must be kept for 35 years, and mammograms must be retained in perpetuity. And these are data retention standards for just one department, in a health system in one state; imagine how complex this gets when you start talking about all of the different things that happen within a hospital. It’s no wonder that healthcare systems struggle to maintain data in a manner that meets the requirements of their clinicians and the same time that meets the requirements of the law.

Luckily, the growth of data and push for more clinical data storage are occurring at a time when data storage is becoming faster, capacity is becoming cheaper, and data efficiencies are available in enterprise-ready solutions. Years ago, healthcare providers believed you had to archive data after it became old, but that doesn’t necessarily apply anymore. Now, data can be moved dynamically from a sub-millisecond storage tier to another tier of storage or even the cloud without it ever affecting the availability of that data to the user.

The real genius is that the data is always available without any special kind of retrieval mechanism that needs to be synchronized. The key is that as organizations move to EHR, we still need to allow clinicians to retain their efficiency and the humanity of healthcare, because it is such a personal thing. Patients are telling a doctor some of the serious things that have happened in their lives, so we have to be able to deliver data that is essential to that clinician whenever they need it, but allow them to remain human in their interaction with the patient.

At next week’s 2015 HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition, more than 38,000 healthcare IT professionals, clinicians, executives, and vendors from around the world will gather in Chicago to discuss better health through information technology (IT). One of the things we will focus on while we are at HIMSS is how organizations should develop reference architectures specifically designed to meet the 24×7 storage, network, and compute demands of today’s healthcare IT systems.

The bottom line is that a healthcare organization’s data must be available online in real-time with systems that can parse through that data and give clinicians what they need. To that end, we will present and discuss five solutions at HIMSS that show how an organization can securely, reliably, and dynamically save and share patient data across the continuum of care:

NetApp Universal Data Platform including our intelligent data management software and converged infrastructure solutions like FlexPod

Data Fabric for Hybrid Cloud to facilitate the established need for seamless, cohesive connection of cloud resources to address today’s dysfunctional siloed approach.

Flash Storage delivering the highest performance for any healthcare workload, maximum efficiency and enterprise reliability

Certified Storage Solutions for EHR, PACS and Other Clinical Applications offering the highest levels of performance and reliability

Big Data Analytics enabling healthcare organizations to manage explosive clinical data growth, improve performance and turn data-driven insight into better patient care.

HIMSS 2015 promises to be a dynamic and interesting conference, and we look forward to sharing information, networking, and learning from others while we are there. Visit us in Hall 2, Booth 3612 or follow the hashtag #NetAppHIMSS on Twitter for live updates from Chicago!


This post was authored by Spencer Hamons, CHCIO, FACHE, Regional Chief Information Officer for the NetApp Americas Healthcare Division; and Monty Zarrouk, NetApp Healthcare Vertical Solutions Marketing.