This content is part of the Essential Guide: Where the vendor neutral archive stands in medical imaging

How to expand healthcare imaging capabilities with the right VNA

Vendor neutral archives hold advantages over PACS, but a provider shouldn't blindly install a VNA and expect it to fix its healthcare imaging issues.

As a result of shifting healthcare imaging requirements, vendor neutral archives have gained popularity among hospitals and health systems. A desire to increase the frequency of cross-facility data sharing is one of the primary reasons hospitals are looking into implementing vendor-agnostic enterprise-wide healthcare imaging platforms.

Vendor neutral archives (VNAs) enable many healthcare imaging services departments to overcome some of the challenges associated with picture archiving and communication systems (PACS). Traditional PACS create islands of medical imaging sorted by department that sometimes don't integrate with EHR systems. In addition, tremendous costs are associated with migrating data to and from different PACS platforms.

VNAs, alternatively, can serve as a single destination for all healthcare imaging data, regardless of the PACS or department of origin. VNAs offer the following benefits including improved collaboration, storage management and viewing capabilities.

Enhanced collaboration and interoperability capabilities

One piece of meaningful use criteria mandates that healthcare organizations share imaging data with patients and other healthcare providers. Many of today's VNAs are well-equipped to help providers meet this criteria because they are built to interoperate with different EHRs.

Centralized and consolidated storage management

VNAs allow hospitals and health IT departments to consolidate their imaging storage. Reducing the number of individual silos where images reside by creating one centralized storage location -- complete with advanced compression and disaster recovery capabilities -- can lead to cost savings and improved data integrity.

Migration flexibility for healthcare imaging services

The centralized repository of images that VNAs create has allowed user-hospitals to reduce the complexity and cost of migrating images. A VNA platform also can be set as the viewing source for images stored in PACS. And VNAs can enable healthcare imaging departments to roll out additional imaging platforms without having to spend excessive time and money on migrating data from legacy systems.

Improved viewing capabilities of healthcare images

Although most PACS can be viewed via Web portals and mobile platforms, they still are localized to each individual department and product. VNAs serve as a single point of access across all disciplines and simplify the process for both clinicians and patients.

Although VNAs offer great benefits, they don't address every need in a healthcare organization's imaging strategy. To fill in the gaps, hospitals look for products in the following areas:

  • HIE and interoperability requirements that are part of stages 2 and 3 of the meaningful use program
  • Referring physician and patient access capabilities
  • Expansion of telemedicine services
  • Consolidated storage and data management

Before selecting a VNA, an organization should evaluate its enterprise imaging strategy, as well as consider the business challenges that could be conquered by rolling out a VNA platform. By performing this pre-evaluation, a healthcare organization creates a more thorough plan for successfully implementing an imaging system that results in a positive return on investment and improves accessibility and security of stored imaging data. The end result could be a VNA that serves as a healthcare organization's image sharing and clinical content foundation.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email [email protected] or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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