Making instant access to patient information reality

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Stuck with the daunting task of quickly assembling each patient’s medical information, physicians, nurses and health-care workers are often left shuffling through various types of traditional data stored on disparate systems. This inefficient form of data management drastically slows down the information-sharing process.

Fortunately, new storage technologies and networking capabilities have helped to improve overall patient data management, significantly reducing the length-of-stay and overall patient treatment costs. Hospitals are now turning their attention to storage vendors for “automated networked storage” solutions to improve patient care while saving hospitals time and money.

ChallengesFilling out paperwork and retrieving a patient’s medical history is the leading cause of unusually long treatment and diagnosis delays. This can require a patient remain overnight in hospital for “observation” in order to avoid a possible allergic or counteractive reaction to a particular drug administered during treatment. Furthermore, hospital liability concerns may keep a patient delayed from treatment for hours because the patient’s information is not immediately available. This inconvenience affects both the patient and the hospital.

Electronic Patient Record Improves Patient CareThe electronic patient record is quickly becoming the standard for leading hospitals nationwide. As hospitals thrive to provide the highest level of quality patient care, they must look at ways to store all of the relevant information necessary to help resolve patient care matters quickly and correctly. Hospitals’ success requires they implement reliable technology and that their applications are supported by an underlying information management infrastructure. Electronic patient records allow health-care workers to easily access patient data, eliminating the risks associated with the loss of paper files and documentation errors.

Managing Fixed ContentContent addressed storage (CAS) is a new technology that addresses the requirements for managing and leveraging enormous quantities of fixed content online. Fixed content refers to long-lasting and unchanging digital objects retained for reference and use. The benefits a hospital can receive from integrating CAS into their existing environment includes the ability to store each unique object, whether the patient information is from an electronic patient record or from PACS (picture archiving communication system), digital images including: MRIs, x-rays, CAT Scans, and other multi-disciplinary PACS. CAS holds all patient information in one central repository that can be accessed via the network from anywhere at anytime.

An example of a CAS solution is EMC’s Centera system – a storage platform that contains intelligent software designed to help hospitals meet the regulatory and operational requirements necessary for redundancy and security, while enabling huge repositories of clinical information to be shared on-line between clinicians. Centera addresses the health-care industry’s need to store fixed content once, ensure its integrity for the life of the item and facilitate its use by many individuals simultaneously. The faster accurate patient information reaches the physician, the faster the physician can make the diagnosis leading to a faster treatment decision.

Networked Storage Enhances Information SharingA growing number of hospitals have started to implement PACS to support digital imaging. PACS is replacing traditional x-rays on film and streamlining the clinical communication decision-making process by creating digital images accessible to physicians wherever they have a computer screen. PACS’ uniqueness lies in the application’s ability to promote faster decision making by the physician.

According to the Journal of Imaging Economics, the average radiology turn-around-time for all hospitals having implemented PACS has been reduced from two hours, 37 minutes to less than one minute.

To successfully implement PACS and an electronic patient record system, hospitals need to ensure the data shared between them is readily available, synchronized and up-to-date. To achieve this, hospitals must integrate their disparate storage environments through an automated networked storage solution which combines the benefits and functionality of a storage area network (SAN), networked attached storage (NAS) and CAS.

Automated networked storage can help hospitals to manage their SAN and NAS environments with a unified view of all their information assets, including business and patient data. Whether a hospital’s data storage devices are from a single vendor or multiple vendors, automated networked storage can consolidate all data into a centralized system, allowing the hospital to access this data no matter where it is located and efficiently manage and share critical patient care data when needed.

When the critical patient care information is stored electronically supporting PACS, health-care workers could review it instantly, speeding the treatment process. Without PACS implemented, up to 20 per cent of the data would be either missing or incorrect. With PACS, physicians can collaborate and make decisions remotely reducing decision-making time. Many operating rooms are becoming equipped with monitors allowing the physicians to look at live and stored images during procedures, dramatically improving the entire operating procedure.

Networking a hospital’s disparate data management systems means managing the flow of critical patient care information, reducing management complexities, allowing information to be shared, thus promoting a higher quality of patient care. The PACS images and the patient care data are gathered from NAS and SAN storage devices. Through networking, patient information from one file can be shared as needed with all levels of clinical decision makers, managed care organizations and other third parties.

Finally, automated networked storage ensures that once the patient leaves the hospital, their primary care physician will be able to continually access the patient’s electronic record to make faster decisions supporting the post-hospital discharge and rehabilitation plans or medications Ñ promoting the patient’s continued recovery.

Healthcare information is growing exponentially given the increased dependence on new health-care applications supporting high quality patient care decision-making. Managed care continues to influence patient length-of-stay policies and decisions regarding medical procedures.

Hospitals need to integrate their disparate storage environments through an automated networked storage solution to ensure quality patient care. New data storage management technologies including software allow hospitals to accelerate the process of delivering fast, accurate information when it is critically needed. This increases the quality of patient care and reduces hospital costs.