"Providers no longer view the continuance of expanding monolithic and disparate image archives for each imaging department as a sustainable approach, as storage volume requirements for the diversifying imaging enterprise continue to increase exponentially," said Frost & Sullivan Principal Analyst Nadim Daher. "Our forecast model projects that even if diagnostic imaging volumes continue to plateau around the 600 million procedures per year mark, overall storage and archiving volume requirements for U.S. medical imaging data will cross the 1 exabyte mark by 2016. That is 1,000 petabytes or 1,000,000 terabytes, which marks medical imaging's definitive entry into Big Data territory."
In sharp contrast with the unfavorable growth landscape that continues to prevail in the radiology information system (RIS) and PACS market space, enterprise medical image archiving constitutes a comparatively small, yet dynamic growth area for medical imaging informatics vendors. Providers are primarily taking one of two approaches to implement such an enterprise-oriented storage and archiving strategy: utilizing PACS-neutral archives from VNAs or relying on enterprise PACS archives, mainly provided by entrenched PACS vendors. In both cases, the new technology paradigm that these technologies allow consists of a centralized archiving infrastructure on the back end, combined with distributed viewing via enterprise viewers on the front end.
"Although they have been around for about 10 years, VNAs have been expanding only gradually into the marketplace – mostly following top-down expansion. However, market adoption is accelerating with the major PACS vendors moving more decisively and proactively into enterprise archives," concluded Daher. "In the wake of ongoing IT consolidation of distributed hospital organizations, enterprise medical image archives are making their way into the marketplace, creating a sizeable growth segment for imaging informatics."
Transitioning to a new PACS vendor or platform has often forced imaging providers to undertake a complex and expensive data migration effort, caused by the use of proprietary mechanisms in most of the legacy PACS systems. In this context, IT departments have considerably increased their influence over decision making for imaging IT. While radiology remains the major contributor to any enterprise imaging IT strategy, most recent deployments now have a broader scope than Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) images from radiology alone.