Guest Column | March 18, 2019

Addressing Healthcare's Growing Data Management Problem: 6 Key Considerations In Choosing A Next-Generation Storage Solution

By Jon Toor, Cloudian

Data Folder

Virtually every industry is seeing a massive increase in data today – and the healthcare sector is facing a major spike. One contributing factor is an aging population that is driving more usage of healthcare systems in North America and Europe. And at the technical level, advances in medical imaging and genomic research are introducing new types of file types that are larger in size. Industry research firm IDC projects that new data generated by healthcare information and imaging systems will grow from 153 exabytes in 2013 to more than 2,314 exabytes by 2020.

Traditional enterprise storage solutions struggle to keep up with the volume and complexity of this data. To adequately manage this growth, healthcare organizations should look at next-generation storage, taking into account six key considerations.

  1. Scalability For Unstructured Data

A significant portion of the data growth is driven by a rise in unstructured data, which comes from content such as PET scans, MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays in PACS systems. Any next-generation solution should be able to scale easily and cost-effectively as this unstructured data increases. This can best be achieved with modular, private cloud storage that can scale without service interruption to accommodate hundreds of petabytes of data across multiple data centers – while maintaining simple, single-point management.

  1. HIPAA Compliance

Healthcare organizations must abide by strict HIPAA regulations. A storage solution should offer extensive security features to ensure organizations are fully HIPAA compliant as their deployments grow. These features include:

  • Data encryption and transparent key management
  • AES-256 server-side encryption for data stored at rest
  • SSL for data in transit (HTTPS)
  • Role-based access controls with specified levels of access
  • Audit trail logging
  • WORM (Write Once Read Multiple) for storage of immutable data
  1. Vendor Neutral Archive Integration

Modern healthcare depends on the real-time delivery of patient data. However, that can be challenging, as patient records originate from many systems, with many different record types. In the typical records system, multiple platforms employ a variety of proprietary formats, which results in information silos: records are locked in isolated archives, making interoperability and information sharing difficult.

To solve this problem, the vendor neutral archive (VNA) was created. A VNA provides a common interface that allows multiple healthcare information platforms to access a shared storage environment. A next-generation storage platform should offer flexible VNA integration, providing a central storage repository that enables organizations to consolidate storage and management of dispersed records and images for real-time, comprehensive viewing.

  1. Custom Metadata Tagging For Analytics

The availability of rich metadata allows data scientists to search, analyze and discover new patterns in healthcare data. Machine learning and analytics can then be leveraged for pattern detection, drug and disease research and even diagnosing health conditions. Traditional NAS solutions have limited metadata while SAN has none. Healthcare organizations should look for next-generation storage platforms that have metadata tagging features built into the system.

  1. Data Resiliency And Protection

Storage solutions should provide robust data resiliency and protection, through either replication or erasure coding. With erasure coding, data is fragmented and spread across different nodes. In case of node failure, the data can be fully reconstructed from fragments on active nodes, providing an efficient data protection scheme with maximum capacity utilization.

  1. Multi-Tenancy

Healthcare organizations often have many different stakeholders from many different teams that all need access to the same data. It’s critical that a next-generation storage platform allow multiple users on a single shared infrastructure without compromising security. This should include granular access control, permission settings and audit logging capabilities to ensure control and logically separate data access. As a result, healthcare professionals, researchers, and patients can securely access data from the same nodes without impacting operations. Administrators also can control quality of service (QOS) by limiting usage rates and setting quotas on a per-group, per-user basis.

In sum, with healthcare organizations experiencing an unprecedented increase in the data they must manage, there are several unique factors they must consider when selecting the right storage platform for this data. Scalability is key to accommodating massive data volumes, but security, metadata capabilities, VNA support, data protection and multi-tenancy are also essential.

About The Author

Jon Toor is CMO at Cloudian.