Last week at the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) 2013, a session was given on vendor neutral archives (VNAs) and picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) vendors with neutral systems, which can integrate with any current archiving solution. While there is a significant difference between the two, it all comes down to providing the end-user health care facility an open architecture for their systems to integrate with other systems.
As the surge of healthcare IT dollars towards electronic medical records (EMRs) to meet meaningful use starts to shift towards other applications, PACS and VNA vendors will see an uptake in replacement and adoption as health care facilities aim to upgrade their storage and imaging sharing capabilities. Surprisingly, despite this significant intention to purchase by health care facilities, there is no current consensus market definition for VNAs, and what you get truly depends on which vendor you opt for. This is a testament as well to the current state of health care facilities in the US, and their varying needs.
Answering the question of, Why do I need this, falls on the vendor currently to demonstrate the value it for better image data management, image sharing integration with EMRs, cloud storage, or other reasons. Given the current lack of market definition, there is still an opportunity to gain a first-mover advantage and have the definition shift to what suits the market leader.
What I find interesting is the shift away from a consolidated platform approach by vendors in the market towards open systems, which allows for best-of-breed solutions. This directly goes against the market trend in the EMR market, where hospitals align mainly with one vendor such as Epic or McKesson for their IT solutions. As was mentioned in the lecture, however, this demonstrates that the imaging informatics market is maturing and focusing on the workflow value of their solutions.

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