Challenge: Improving Image Access Performance
In order to effectively treat patients, the medical staff at Regional West required immediate access to all medical records regardless of age. The facility was using network attached storage (NAS) for the secondary tier, supported by a near-line tape library for archiving. While the access speeds for NAS were sufficient, the slow and unpredictable retrieval times for images stored on tape were creating insurmountable burdens on the IT staff supporting it.
The library’s mechanical construct was negatively impacting the speed of recall, and involved a great deal of complexity when recalling older records. Due to the offline state of older studies, the help desk was tasked with routing retrieval requests for this data. The process involved routing requests to a product specialist, who researched the index to identify the correct tape, and when found, mounted it into the library. By the time the record was finally restored, anywhere from 24 to 48 hours had passed. Compounding this, if the hardware experienced any problems during this process, the nearest support facility was eight hours away which created additional concern.
Challenge: Implementing an Effective Disaster Recovery Plan
The medical center also needed to update their contingency plan with a proven disaster recovery (DR) and business continuance solution. The existing DR strategy relied on a manual process to rotate tape media offsite. This process was unreliable, vulnerable and also required significant management resources. Regional West wanted a solution that provided full replication, failover and also eliminated the operational overhead created by the manual procedures in place.
Challenge: Efficient Storage Utilization & Improved Workflow
Due to the limited performance of the existing long term archive, the facility was growing increasingly dependent on primary and secondary tiers of storage and unknowingly jeopardized the ability to create new studies. To understand this, a review of a common medical image archive workflow is warranted.
Workflow: New studies are written to primary storage which must be flushed when a high watermark is reached. The flushing process intelligently migrates older data (based on last access date) from primary to secondary (NAS). Due to these vulnerabilities, PACS often requires confirmation that each study is also archived before it can be fully reported as a candidate to be flushed. Therefore, if a study is not confirmed as archived, it cannot be flushed and must be maintained on primary storage.
Based on the workflow described above, the library was not only creating delays for the recall of older data but also jeopardizing the archiving of new studies due to time-outs and unrelenting job queues. These job queues were making it difficult to efficiently manage the capacity of primary storage and jeopardizing the entire PACS workflow.
In most cases, administrators can’t tell when a record is being pulled from Assureon as opposed to the primary storage system, and the system improved our staff efficiency by keeping all data ‘near-line’ for quick retrieval. In addition, we particularly like Assureon’s ability to provide a very efficient DR solution.
Donna Vogel, Data Services Manager, Regional West Medical Center