Healthcare News & Insights

Object storage: Curing the healthcare industry’s data headaches

GettyImages-187260401Medical science has made incredible progress with disease management and life expectancies. But there’s one frontier that still needs to be crossed for the healthcare industry to provide the best possible care: the data problem. In this guest post, Jonathan Ring, co-founder and CEO of a software development firm, explains how object storage may be the solution to this problem.

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Data is essential in all areas of healthcare – from diagnostic medicine to drug testing – and healthcare providers need to find new ways to store, analyze, leverage and view information to enable a healthcare revolution. Object storage – a searchable storage system that stores data with a unique identifier (instead of a hierarchical file system) – could be the perfect solution.

While medical data isn’t being stored in giant filing cabinets anymore, few healthcare providers have taken full advantage of the capabilities of modern technology. Accessibility and an excess of data have caused hospital administrators numerous headaches. With HIPAA legally requiring medical records to be stored without personally identifiable information, healthcare providers need to find a solution that can take on a lot of data without losing any of it.

Here’s how object storage can solve some of the most common issues with keeping track of medical data:

1. Security

Protecting patient privacy is one of the top concerns of hospital administrators, but a shocking 94% of healthcare organizations suffered data breaches in 2012 that exposed confidential patient records. And the situation hasn’t improved – a 2015 study confirmed that criminal attacks were up 125% from five years ago. It’s not just stolen data that’s a concern; data corruption is also a pressing issue.

St. Jude’s Hospital, for example, needed a storage solution that provided protection for disaster recovery, and it wanted something it could upgrade independent of the picture archiving and communication system applications.

The multi-tier storage models with built-in security models and resilient replication and erasure coding options provided by object storage resolved both of these issues. By creating and maintaining copies of data, every healthcare provider can ensure data integrity and accessibility.

2. Information overload

Ninety percent of the world’s data was generated over the past two years alone, and while some industries can abandon old data, healthcare providers can’t. Many are facing information overload with a wealth of unstructured data (such as clinical images and detailed lab analysis) needing homes.

Johns Hopkins Center for Inherited Disease Research (CIDR) is using object storage because it’s easily scalable. By eliminating the traditional file system hierarchies and implementing a flat access structure, object storage provides a scalable solution to the problem of unstructured data access.

Nodes can be distributed with this storage solution, increasing data resilience, improving disaster recovery strategies and ensuring hardware infrastructure is more manageable. The CIDR has scaled more than 70 times since the deployment of object storage, which has allowed it to save money and keep its access to legacy hardware storage during the switch.

3. Accessibility

Going hand-in-hand with the proliferation of data is the question of data access. As data grows, specific items become harder to locate. And with patient records and clinical trial data needing to remain available for decades, guaranteeing all that information is protected, accessible and searchable is a serious challenge.

However, object storage satisfies all of these requirements and ensures information remains constantly searchable. By leveraging a best-of-breed object storage solution, queries can be conducted via a simple web-based user interface that requires no special expertise. It’s as simple as any internet search.

The CIDR is also currently using object storage so its medical staff has long-term access to images from radiology information systems. Without object storage, these images could be lost, misplaced or difficult to access.

Implementing Object Storage

Object storage isn’t a complex solution to implement. It can be integrated with leading vendor neutral archives and medical imaging software, and there’s technology available to assist with automatically moving files over from NetApp filers and Windows servers. This process doesn’t have to take place all at once. Organizations can transfer data at their required pace, scaling as they go to save money over the long term.

However, it’s important for decision makers to conduct due diligence before choosing a solution. To protect against accidental file deletion, it’s essential to employ a “write once, read many” or immutable object option. The best object storage providers will support rolling software upgrades and allow as-needed additions of new commodity hardware.

With automatic system optimization, self-healing capabilities and intelligent data life cycle management, the right object storage platform offers the perfect solution for healthcare archiving needs. Files will be secure and accessible, guaranteeing that medical science continues to make great leaps forward in patient treatment and care.

Jonathan Ring is the co-founder and CEO of Caringo, a company that develops scale-out object storage software that controls any volume, flow or size of unstructured information. Prior to Caringo, Jonathan was an active angel investor advising a broad range of companies, and was a VP of engineering at Siebel Systems.

 

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