PACS in the cloud

It has been interesting to follow the news emanating from RSNA, the world’s leading radiology event, held in Chicago recently.

Many of the radiology platform vendors showcasing their products at the event made announcements that they are now linked to Amazon HealthLake Imaging – a part of Amazon Web Services or AWS as it is better known – to provide PACS in the cloud. Being able to store, share, and analyse medical images in the cloud should come as an attractive option to healthcare providers who are experiencing an accelerating volume of imaging on a daily basis as well as a steady increase in the resolution, or quality, of the images. Both of these factors significantly impact onsite data storage capacity and all that that entails. AWS says there are now more than 5.5 billion imaging procedures done each year worldwide, while, over the past several years, the average image study size has doubled to 150 MB. They make a good case for healthcare providers to make the switch from traditional onsite PACS to PACS in the cloud, pointing out that HealthLake Imaging helps providers reduce the total cost of medical imaging storage up to 40% by running their medical imaging applications in the cloud. To allay concerns about latency in accessing the imaging, they emphasise that the system is fast, with sub-second image retrieval.

Looking at the pivotal role medical imaging now plays in diagnostics and treatment and the rapid evolution of imaging capabilities with the advancement of related technologies, it seems like a no-brainer really to make the switch, particularly for large provider networks who are amassing an inordinate amount of imaging data. Besides the reduced costs there are other attractive benefits, such as the ease of access to the imaging data, the security of the data with it being housed in the cloud, and a significant reduction in the burden of managing the data storage infrastructure. In addition to this there is the on-going development of third-party Artificial Intelligence tools that can be applied to the so called ‘cloud PACS’ and be put to my uses, such as the analysis of imaging data for research purposes or the development of clinical decision support services.

PACS in the cloud is clearly the way of the future for healthcare, as has data storage in the cloud become de rigour for many businesses and personal computer users.