Mr. Runyon: The medical imaging platform that most supports a healthcare provider’s transformation to a real-time health system (RTHS) is the vendor-neutral archive (VNA). The VNA is now central to the healthcare provider’s enterprise imaging strategy, and it is evolving to include all unstructured clinical content, in addition to its traditional imaging role.
The VNA is no longer a passive archive of DICOM images and studies, but rather, includes all manner of unstructured clinical content required to support an RTHS. The VNA was originally a market response to the prodigious storage growth associated with picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), and the cost and complexity of PACS migration. Since then, the VNA value proposition has evolved to include standards-based information access and sharing, universal image viewing, and sophisticated workflow capabilities. More recently, the VNA has been promoted for its contributions to operational efficiency, interoperability and the clinical benefits that it enables.
The VNA is critical to the healthcare provider’s ability to leverage the wealth of clinical insight trapped within medical images and other unstructured clinical content surrounding patient care, including that captured across vendor. It is also essential for a healthcare provider to get control of the fragmented data surrounding the patient, which has and will experience ownership issues by vendor. Leveraging the VNA is a step in the right direction to enable the transition of control from vendors back to the enterprise.
The domains of enterprise content management and medical imaging are now actively converging within the VNA platform. Gartner’s long-term view is that this convergence will continue in healthcare, and while the name of the technology may change, the functional need for neutral storage of healthcare data will endure and grow.
The core capabilities of the VNA surround vendor independence and the adoption of industry standards. These characteristics complement the mission of the RTHS — whose justification for existence is enterprise-wide situational awareness achieved through the progressive adoption of industry interoperability standards for patient-related data, and the timely application of up-to-date operational intelligence. The VNA is as much a response to inaccessible and siloed data as the RTHS is a response to the current state of the healthcare delivery organization (HDO) — where awareness is often limited, information is not easily shared, workflows and business processes are disconnected, and data is not available when and where it needs to be.
The RTHS collects and analyzes data gathered during the course of doing business. It uses that information to optimize workflows and business processes, balance resources with demand, and improve decision making. The VNA is not a passive actor in this process, but a rich source of patient history and event data — a key information source providing visibility into important patient-related activities and event data to satisfy revenue, cost, quality and patient experience expectations. The VNA is an important component of an RTHS migration plan — where the awareness must be addressed, and consolidation, standardization and integration play a critical role in adopting the RTHS vision.