The evolution of the vendor neutral archive: ECM

Susan deCathelineau, Vice President of Healthcare Sales and Service, Hyland, creator of OnBase
Susan deCathelineau, Vice President of Healthcare Sales and Service, Hyland, creator of OnBase

We’ve seen a buzz around the transition from PACS to vendor neutral archives (VNA) but how does this fit into the next generation electronic health record (EHR)? Healthcare organizations might already own the answer to their imaging dilemma.

When each clinical specialty area stores its own clinical content, hospitals end up with different storage solutions in every department. These information silos make sharing clinical data cumbersome, requiring staff to transfer image files to CDs, DVDs or flash drives and physically send them where they need to go.

Vendor neutral archives provide healthcare organizations with a single storage platform that standardizes and centralizes medical imaging studies from multiple vendors, eliminating the need to support an additional system.

VNAs serve an excellent purpose – simplifying our incredibly complex medical imaging landscape. However, what if you could make it even easier? Patient care doesn’t start and end with imaging, there is a lot of information and data captured before a patient even sees a clinician, and perhaps even more afterwards.

The next generation EHR

According to a recent research paper by Gartner Analyst Barry Runyon, Market Guide for Vendor-Neutral Archives, published August 18, 2015, there has been an evolution of imaging repositories from PACS to VNA. But by 2020, organizations will move towards enterprise content management (ECM) solutions.

ECM solutions are used to capture registration information, lab results, EKGs, fetal strips, pathology reports, wound images, billing information and more. Providing a VNA solution on  an ECM platform enables all content stored outside of the electronic medical record (EMR) to be in a single repository, further reducing the number of products and vendors to maintain and manage.

Because VNA capabilities are developed on the ECM platform, organizations can take advantage of core ECM technologies like sophisticated workflow capabilities and automated retention policies. In addition, tight integrations with EMRs make DICOM and non-DICOM content available within the context of the patient record.

The importance of storing content in its native format

One of the key points in the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) EMR selection was whether or not the DoD owns the data, or the EMR vendor owns the data. In my opinion, it’s always the customer’s information.

However, many vendors store content in a proprietary wrapper within their database. Wrapping DICOM and non-DICOM content alters the original legal image document, preventing it from being returned to the system that generated it. In this situation, the vendor has most of the control over the content instead of the organization.

ECM’s VNA capabilities enable DICOM and non-DICOM content to remain in their native format within the ECM solution. It’s the healthcare organization’s data and it’s important for it to retain that control.

Support redundant storage and disaster recovery

The ECM architecture allows healthcare organizations to consolidate existing DICOM archives while supporting short-term, long-term and redundant storage as well as disaster recovery. This platform also creates an environment that significantly reduces or even eliminates the additional human and capital expense required to support a separate VNA.

In addition to standard VNA functions, ECM archiving allows your organization to leverage all of the core ECM capabilities and workflows not available from “traditional” VNA vendors, and apply them to your clinical content. OnBase VNA provides organizations a suite of powerful workflow lifecycle management and data sharing tools, opening up a new level of functionality never before possible in either the VNA or ECM solutions independently. 

Provides access to a more complete patient record

To support more informed care, ECM solutions allow authorized users across the enterprise instant access to the information they need, where and when they need it from within the EMR.

Clinicians view notes from referring physicians alongside ultrasounds, examine today’s EKG alongside a previous one and see X-rays next to the associated radiologist report, empowering more informed decisions that lead to improved quality of care.

As healthcare providers search for an answer to their imaging silos, they may not need to look far. CIOs want to consolidate systems and vendors, making it important to select strategic partners, not just IT vendors. In looking for an ECM strategic partner, ensure that they have tight integrations with existing IT systems to not only share content across the organization or system but also with other providers who need it to provide care. Better, faster care at a lower cost, isn’t that the goal?

DICOM, ECM, EHR, electronic health record, Enterprise content management, non-DICOM, OnBase by Hyland, PACS, vendor neutral archives, VNA


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