Data archiving software helps cancer institute store medical data

Data archiving software from Hewlett-Packard and McKesson helped the Roswell Park Cancer Institute improve its archiving system for medical data, while meeting HIPAA regulations.

Using Hewlett-Packard's medical archive solution in conjunction with a McKesson picture archiving and communications system has helped the Roswell Park Cancer Institute store documents and images in a system that's easy to search and scale, and that meets strict HIPAA regulations. Learn more about the facility's implementation in this case study.

In the ongoing battle against cancer, Roswell Park Cancer Institute generates millions of files, emails and photographs. Those, in turn, used to create many headaches and sleepless nights for Thomas Vaughan, director of IT infrastructure at the Buffalo, N.Y.-based institution.

Roswell Park had been using Windows Share to store these terabytes of data. It was an unacceptable system, Vaughan said.

"Putting millions of files on Windows Share becomes very unwieldy, and you can't manipulate it very well," Vaughan said. "It took days to back up to tape and, to be truthful, we lost some data at one time. We never got it back."

About two years ago, the hospital and research center began investigating another tool -- one that would store and archive medical images and business information, be highly scalable, meet Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other government regulations, and provide disaster recovery and business continuity services.

Moving forward with data archiving software from Hewlett-Packard and McKesson

Roswell Park had started rolling out a picture archiving and communications system (PACS) from McKesson Corp., and wanted to find the most appropriate medical archive solution (MAS) to contain patient and research data.

"One of the problems with a [PACS] is that it keeps a cache of active studies," Vaughan said. "I wasn't real pleased with that." At that, Roswell Park started to evaluate its options. One was an MAS system from Hewlett-Packard Co.

The Hewlett-Packard MAS provides information management software designed specifically for health care organizations. The company's specialized archiving platform helps global health care providers, hospitals and imaging clinics address their medical image retention requirements. It also took care of HIPAA audit requirements, Vaughan said. Further, it provided the necessary data persistence. "I have to keep things forever, and this is the first thing I've seen that's cost-effective," he said. "We've never had problems getting anything back from it, and it's always up for us, and our radiologists are always happy."

Based on previous experience with Hewlett-Packard software, Vaughan believed its MAS would best meet Roswell Park's data access, storage and archiving needs. Wanting to put in place a completely redundant system, the organization selected the following:

  • Two Hewlett-Packard StorageWorks enterprise virtual arrays running a Continuous Access EVA.
  • A 10-terabyte StorageWorks MAS.
  • A StorageWorks Integrated Archive Platform (IAP).
  • A Hewlett-Packard Enterprise File Services Cluster Gateway.
  • A StorageWorks Cluster Extension.
  • Clustered Hewlett-Packard ProLiant servers.

The organization purchased this mix of software, hardware and services from Hewlett-Packard partner Affinity Enterprises LLC, which had worked with Roswell Park on other projects in the past.

The data archiving software implementation by the numbers

After Affinity installed the redundant MAS software and hardware, McKesson implemented the McKesson PACS, known as Horizon Medical Imaging. This image and information management system lets Roswell Park acquire, distribute and archive medical images and diagnostic reports across its entire network, as needed, with data stored in the Hewlett-Packard MAS. 

If we provide top-quality services, we attract better researchers.

Thomas Vaughan, director of IT infrastructure, Roswell Park Cancer Institute

The MAS archives and retrieves the PACS images. This helps the PACS run smoothly, and increases the speed with which these high-resolution images can be stored and retrieved; this in turn lets medical staff care for patients more efficiently. Because it is highly scalable, Roswell Park can add to the MAS at a rate of about 20 terabytes each year, according to the facility.

The StorageWorks IAP, meanwhile, archives Microsoft Exchange emails. Researchers or other authorized users can find stored email for legal discovery, research or other needs. What used to take days or weeks now takes less than an hour and has let Vaughan free up 1.5 full-time employees.

The quality of Roswell Park's software and storage systems allows it to attract and retain leading researchers because they place high value on the elimination of mindless, time-consuming tasks often associated with less sophisticated storage and archiving systems, Vaughan said: "If we provide top-quality services, we attract better researchers."

In hard dollars, Roswell Park expects the Hewlett-Packard MAS and McKesson PACS to have a cumulative five-year net benefit of more than $7.5 million, based on increased IT and staff productivity, efficiency gains and decreased downtime. That will result in a 107% return on investment over 22 months, the research and medical facility estimated.

"We were sweating bullets about it for a long time. It's a big worry when you have terabytes of data sitting on Windows servers. There's no integrity checking: It's there, or it's not there and it's gone," Vaughan said. "Ultimately, data doesn't keep me awake at night anymore. It's something as basic to us as electricity and water. It's just there now."

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