HP's Presciption For Archiving Headaches

It's bundling servers, storage and search software to help healthcare providers meet ever-increasing data retention requirements.

HP on Thursday rolled out Medical Archive Solution (MAS) 3.0, an archiving platform designed to increase storage flexibility and medical data availability for healthcare providers.

This latest iteration includes integrated ProLiant servers, HP StorageWorks SAN and MSA disk storage with indexing, policy management and search software built on a grid architecture that allows hospitals, medical clinics and healthcare administrators to prioritize where, when and how they store multiple terabytes of medical images and records.

While technological advances such as multislice CT scans and 3-D MRI images have improved patient care, regulatory requirements brought about by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act have put an even greater burden on healthcare providers charged with storing these all of these space-hogging files for years or even decades.

In the U.S. alone, HIPAA requires hospitals and clinics to save adult medical records and images for seven years and pediatric records for 25 years or more. Not only do healthcare providers have to store all this data -- for example, a one multislice CT image requires about 1 gigabyte of storage compared to between 10 and 50 megabytes for older CTs -- but they must be able to quickly retrieve and access it on demand.

"These image retention requirements are significant and can be overwhelming," Lisa Dali, product marketing manager in HP's information management group, told InternetNews.com. "HIPAA says you have to save it for seven years but customers are saying what if a patient needs this data in 10 years and we don't have the records? What happens to our reputation? They want to keep all of this forever in a way that makes sense for their business requirements."

These fears are creating a bonanza for software and storage vendors such as HP, EMC and IBM. Market researcher Frost & Sullivan predicts the healthcare storage market will grow to $1.3 billion this year and Gartner predicts worldwide spending for enterprise records management software licenses and maintenance will grow about 30 percent a year through 2011.

HP's Dali said more than 175 different hospitals and clinics in 15 countries have already installed earlier versions of MAS in their datacenters.

"You've got this pot of data with images and patient records, all with varying degrees of business value," she said. "And some, like a simple X-ray, have almost no business value. But you still have to keep it somewhere. The key for customers is to build the long-term infrastructure. They need to manage it all."

Unlike prior versions, MAS 3.0 lets healthcare providers create and manage multiple tiers of storage within the MAS grid. Administrators can configure it with their own business processes to prioritize the files that need to be stored on the faster and more expensive SAN and which make more sense residing on SCSI , SATA or tape.

A high-availability gateway provides "always on" grid access to medical images, documents and lab reports, ensuring no data is lost or compromised in the event of single or even multiple site failures.

The Standard MAS 3.0 bundle starts at $143,000 but customers that don't require the enterprise-class bells and whistles can pick up the Compact model for $60,000.

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