The Data Storage Dilemma
As technology plays an increasingly important role in treatment of patients—from electronic health records (EHRs) to new and innovative tools at the point of care—keeping up to date on data storage strategies has never been more important.
Healthcare providers planning for future storage requirements have unique considerations, from legally required data retention periods to the storage requirements of EHRs. Digital health files are a key driver of today's exponential data growth. Each piece of data—forms, histories, images, and treatment records—has to be created, catalogued, archived, and made readily (and securely) accessible.
Since an EHR includes multiple diagnostic images, physician orders, prescription lists, X-rays, and lab results for every clinical visit, the storage requirement can easily be gigabytes. When multiplied by the number of patients, that number quickly moves to terabytes.
It's possible to conquer this data explosion with storage solutions that increase information retrieval speed, boost storage capacity, and foster resiliency. Trends among healthcare IT pros include reducing the overall size and number of files that clinicians need to save as well as finding more efficient storage methods.
Data compression, selective archiving, and smart storage appliances that support storage tiering and server consolidation present opportunities to reduce costs while improving performance. IT innovations such as storage area network (SAN) solutions and data deduplication help ensure that your organization can store information, access it when needed, and stay within budget.
Manage the Information Lifecycle
So how exactly does a healthcare organization store all this data and accommodate future growth? The answer lies in implementing Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) practices and tiered storage using your existing data storage and retrieval systems, new higher-capacity storage devices, or virtual storage.
ILM enables you to make the most efficient use of your resources by assigning different categories of data to types of storage media. As files age, they can automatically migrate away from disk-based tier-one storage, to tier-two and tier-three devices—like tape drives and libraries. Records needing constant accessibility will require larger online disk arrays and storage-specific network engineering.
Build a Backup Plan
While EHRs eliminate the days of misplaced paper files, it's still possible for electronic files to be lost. For healthcare providers of all sizes, a backup is the first defense against the loss of patient data. HIPAA Security Regulations specify how electronic information should be stored, transferred, and used to ensure the privacy of individually identifiable data related to a patient's healthcare. It's extremely important to restrict access to your server and maintain a backup of all current files.
SANs and Virtualization
A capable storage solution is essential to attain the greatest possible benefits from virtualization, and the most cost-effective way to manage storage may be an enterprise SAN. You can reduce IT operating expenses and increase agility and efficiency with a SAN that scales storage capacity on demand. Thin provisioning is an excellent way to scale your SAN to meet storage requirements. It allows you to allocate storage to applications as they need it, a feature that can cut storage costs significantly.
If you don't have a SAN in place, the initial investment can seem daunting. If you're already using SAN-based storage, you'll need tools to manage virtualization. While you may have to pay for adjustments to your storage solution up front, you'll see significant savings almost immediately through reduced management costs and fewer capacity upgrades.
Our storage design and installation services and SAN Jumpstart services will help you design and install your SAN, and offer valuable knowledge transfer to support your infrastructure with confidence.
A SAN can replicate data to remote sites in real-time for worry-free file restoration and disaster recovery. In the move to consolidate storage, you may not be able to eliminate backup tape cartridges completely. Those that remain should be encrypted and stored off site at a secure location.
We're Here to Help
Storing your files in compliance with HIPAA, HITECH, and other government regulations requires a great deal of planning and a storage solution that's designed for your unique needs. Connection's Storage Healthcheck Service is an ideal first step that can help you plan for future projects such as:
- Storage consolidation
- Storage virtualization
- Data deduplication
- Tiered storage design and implementation
To learn more, complete our Information Request Form or contact an
Account Executive at 1-800-369-1047.