Dell to Host Agfa Medical Imaging Database in the Cloud

Dell's cloud infrastructure will host Agfa's imaging archive to allow doctors to incorporate images into electronic health records.

Dell has announced it will host Agfa Healthcare's medical imaging archive in the cloud.

The cloud will provide the storage capacity and processing power as doctors look for ways to make medical images compatible with electronic health records (EHRs).

Cloud computing will be an essential factor in this effort, especially when IT budgets are tight, according to Dr. Jamie Coffin, vice president and general manager of Dell Healthcare and Life Sciences.

"The world is moving to a patient-centric view of the [EHR]," Coffin told eWEEK. "You have to start to think about digital radiology, pathology, genomics and figure out how to store this in a format where you take and use it wherever your clinician is."

Agfa's medical imaging archive, called Imaging Clinical Information System (ICIS), is a central repository that allows doctors to capture, store and exchange medical images.

Using ICIS in Dell's cloud, clinicians can capture a medical image and related metadata and "marry" it with the patient demographics in an EHR, Lenny Reznik, director of enterprise imaging and information solutions for Agfa HealthCare, told eWEEK. "Their clinical information system allows you to image-enable all of the data that they have in their [picture archiving and communications systems, or PACS] into the [EHR]," said Coffin. "The idea is that they store it in the cloud, and customers can access it from wherever they are and whatever platform they're on."

Dell and Agfa announced their partnership on June 7.

ICIS incorporates the Impax Data Center, which unifies patient records across regions, hospital facilities and departments. As a vendor-neutral system, ICIS can store images from various PACS.

The Agfa platform also includes the Xero Technology Viewer, a tool that allows doctors to stream the images from any Web-enabled device. The image viewer lets doctors embed images directly into an EHR.

Agfa customers will be able to access images either in Agfa's ICIS or Dell's Cloud Clinical Archive, said Coffin.

Dell announced a similar agreement with Siemens in February in which the two companies would collaborate on a vendor-neutral image archive in the cloud.

In addition, Dell will offer its Cloud Clinical Recovery platform to Agfa customers to provide disaster protection. Medical facilities using Agfa's imaging archive will be able to access additional analytics and data services in the future, said Coffin.

Hospitals with 300 to 400 beds that can't afford a data center infrastructure or the personnel to operate it will be able to manage their images and data in the cloud, said Coffin.

"By the year 2015, half of all medical images will be in the cloud," Reznik predicted.

By allowing ICIS to manage the archiving of radiology images, doctors are free to concentrate on treating patients, according to Agfa. Storing images in the cloud allows providers to track patients over time and maintain longitudinal medical imaging record access, Michael Green, Agfa HealthCare's president and CEO of Americas region, said in a statement.

Storing the medical images in the cloud will allow doctors' offices or medical centers to manage data-intensive images when they lack physical space to store their own servers.

"A single pathology slide can be like 6GB of data because it's a high-resolution image," Coffin noted. "It really brings an ROI to the customers they've never been able to get before [from] on-site image management."

In addition, archiving medical images in the cloud allows health care providers to meet the Stage 2 requirements on meaningful use of EHRs, according to Dell. Medical image viewing is an optional menu measure for achieving Stage 2 compliance.

As health information exchanges (HIEs) continue to connect data from diverse EHR platforms, the cloud will be an important foundation as data elements such as imaging, pathology and genomics are incorporated into the exchanges, Coffin suggested.