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A healthcare CIO talks about what to look for in a VNA system

Looking for a VNA system? A healthcare CIO who has already gone through the process of finding and implementing a VNA shares his advice.

When shopping for a vendor neutral archive (VNA) system, there are many choices, and it can be difficult to decide which one is right for your organization. In addition, healthcare organizations are often juggling other health IT projects as well. But James Wellman, CHCIO, CIO at Comanche County Memorial Hospital in Lawton, Oklahoma, can speak from experience.

In this Q&A, he discusses, based on personal experience, what he thinks healthcare organizations should look for in a VNA system and vendor. He also shares what his healthcare organization decided to bring over to the new VNA system and what they decided to leave behind.

What should healthcare organizations keep in mind as they shop for a VNA system?

James Wellman: The ability of the company to do the migration … some of these [VNA vendors] make it a little difficult because they recognize they will no longer have that hold on the customer, and that it makes it much easier to change a product once that contract expires.

James Wellman, CHCIO, CIO at Comanche County Memorial HospitalJames Wellman

Usually, in the past, migration costs have been, and are, a huge part of why people don't want to change the PACS [picture archiving and communication systems]. The VNA erases that. So you want to look at that company's ability to pull that data, and can they do that or are they going to require a lot of help ... essentially from their competitor? In our case, one of the companies we worked with really relied heavily on the other companies to do that, [making] our cost go up disproportionately. 

[We] had a very good product, we liked it and then, because of their reliance on the other vendors to do a bulk of that work and help with that migration, they drove our cost up pretty substantially … That is one thing I would have warned somebody about, is get a pretty locked in pricing on the migration costs … and understand that they'll have to start pointing all the modalities in their product over to that VNA. For a while there, you're going to be using both.

So, you know, there are challenges around those costs. Those costs seem to keep wanting to go up, and I kept having to refer back to the contracts that we locked them in on. And, in certain cases, I swear, an application comes back like they didn't know what this actually meant, but since we had pretty good contracts with them, they were bound by the cost. 
And know what you want to clean up, you know? We use that as an opportunity to reference retention policy and apply it to our images. There's no reason to pay for something you don't need to bring over that's not valid anymore. 

What did you decide to bring over and what did you decide could be left behind?

Wellman: We kept everything intact on the current storage, we created our new storage metric with the VNA with on-site and off-site mirrored devices and we pulled everything over.

Know what you want to clean up, you know? ... There's no reason to pay for something you don't need to bring over that's not valid anymore.
James WellmanCHCIO, CIO at Comanche County Memorial Hospital

Everything we applied retention policies to, we went back and checked it all again, and double checked, and once we had everybody review it and sign off, we then, in turn, went and started removing it from the systems, even from the old systems. And then we went back in, and we'd already had it marked, we got rid of it. Plus, you know, that freed up a lot of storage for us.
We would stop every so often and do that. We didn't want to get all the way depleted, in our case, with over 10 years digital and then do it. So we would pause the snapshot, look at everything, go in, clean it all up and come back.

So that also allowed us to manage the costs and storage devices a little better as well. If we had to try to dissect everything that we'd already had and then some, and put in place our growth for the next five years, we'd have had to expand the unit a lot more. 

Do you have a similar experience with selecting a VNA system for your healthcare organization? Is there anything you would add to Wellman's advice? Email Kristen Lee at [email protected] or reach her on Twitter: Kristen_Lee_34

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