This year's Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) annual meeting is behind us, and the hot topics of the conference among physicians and vendors alike were unquestionably cloud archives and vendor-neutral archives (VNAs). Many panels outlined how far picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) and archives have come in the last ten or so years. Back in the day, image management and image sharing were functions only expected in radiology but since that time, these functions have come to be commonly expected in cardiology and across other departments as well.
With the shift of information across multiple departments, the overall needs of hospitals have shifted accordingly. The use of a single PACS no longer allows the physician to access all of the pertinent information for a particular patient, and instead they would have to access multiple systems, adding unnecessary time and effort to their overall workflow. VNAs (or enterprise archives, as they are termed by some vendors) have helped improve physician workflow by allowing interoperability among different PACS and clinical information systems. This interoperability creates a patient-centric system, where all images of and information on a patient can be accessed from a single platform.
While a patient-centric enterprise archive system is useful within a hospital, there is also a growing need for communication and image sharing among different hospitals in a region, which will drive the need for cloud archives. Cloud archives allow a hospital's images and information to be stored on servers remotely, which then allows for remote visualization of images from anywhere and at any time. Remote access enables the most appropriate physician to review the information as opposed to the most convenient physician at the hospital and also allows for subspecialty readings because rural facilities can transfer their images to high-excellence facilities. While cloud archives are also scalable and cheaper than local archives, their growth will continue to be somewhat limited as security concerns and questions over who owns and controls the data still persist. Nonetheless, VNAs and cloud archives are poised to achieve considerable growth in the upcoming years as hospitals adapt and adjust to the changing needs of image and information management and sharing.