vCloud Case Study: Medical Image Exchange in the Cloud
When medical information exchange company eMix came online in early 2010, they turned to VMware technology running on infrastructure provided at iland Internet Solutions to provide the infrastructure for a secure, nationwide platform to facilitate the movement of diagnostic images and patient information between disparate healthcare organizations.
Exchanging medical images, for example a basic X-ray or a complex CT or MRI scan inside of a medical group is usually accomplished with a minimum of fuss over internally managed networks and IT systems. But when a trauma patient needs to be moved from one medical facility to an unrelated hospital, transporting potentially life-saving patient data can quickly become complicated.
Aside from the issue of complying with HIPAA medical records regulations, there is the more immediately urgent dilemma of ensuring that diagnostic information will arrive in a useful format with the patient. Common solutions used today, according to Florent Saint-Clair, DR Systems Vice-President and General Manager of eMix, range from exchanging the data over a VPN between institutions or burning the images onto a CD or DVD and taping the disc to the patient.
eMix (Electronic Medical Information Exchange) is a business unit of DR Systems, itself a 20-year company that makes a range of medically oriented imaging and data management products. eMix’s primary mission is to provide medical images and information where they are needed at the right time. eMix is hoping that by forgoing the need for VPNs--which require extensive IT setup and maintenance-- and burning CDs to send along with patients—which can be lost or incompatible with PC systems at the receiving hospital—that patient safety and cost-savings will drive demand for the new service.
According to Saint-Clair, using iland (the company spells its name all lowercase), a VMware-based cloud infrastructure provider, enables eMix to accomplish its mission by providing a scalable platform in a logically separated, hosted private cloud that can service medical facilities across the country from a geographically advantageous site.
eMix works by creating a virtualized environment that supports a PACS (picture archiving and communication system) environment where DICOM (digital imaging and communications in medicine) images and data can be exchanged.
Each medical facility needs an eMix gateway, which is usually provided as a virtual machine and what eMix calls their “Zero-Footprint Viewer.” In this setup, an eMix subscribed hospital could forward patient diagnostic images and information to medical staff at the eMix subscribed receiving medical facility.
eMix is working on a study with Virginia Commonwealth University that Saint-Clair said shows between $14,000 and $18,000 in reduced costs for every case where a patient is able to bypass emergency room re-diagnosis and go straight to the operating room when initial medical images and information collected at one medical institution can be forwarded and used at the receiving hospital.
The system is securely hosted at iland on a vSphere infrastructure that eMix vetted for its ability to support HIPAA-compliant applications as well as eMix requirements for service availability and overall general security.