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Iron Mountain launches medical archiving service

Beth Pariseau

Iron Mountain Inc. has opened a new Digital Records Center for Medical Images with support from medical archiving storage hardware partner Hewlett-Packard Co. The new service launches a few days after Google Inc. revealed its move into this market.

Iron Mountain and HP's sales forces will push new disaster recovery and long-term archiving services for medical images, which will be hosted at Iron Mountain's data centers in Pennsylvania and Missouri. The services will use HP's Medical Archive Solution (MAS) to store medical images from customers. HP and Iron Mountain executives said customers will include mostly midmarket imaging centers and hospitals that can't afford on-site archives or off-site disaster recovery.

The service uses a gateway server at the customer site to take in data. It offers two main levels. Its disaster recovery service draws data from customers' on-site archives to Iron Mountain's Pennsylvania data center and the disaster recovery and long-term archiving service pulls data from customers' PACS applications to the Pennsylvania data center and then replicates it to the Missouri data center. Both services include data encryption.

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Thuan Nyugen, IT director for Seattle Radiologists, said his imaging center, which serves hospitals and other medical clients, will use the service and phase out a Plasmon DVD jukebox it had been relying on archiving and off-site copies of data.

Nyugen said the DVDs were reliable, but his company could only afford to keep 12 TB of the most recent images on an EMC Clariion CX300 disk array. That meant patients who needed a current image compared with one taken in the past would sometimes have to wait a day or more while the right DVD was retrieved. Signing up for the service will be easier than keeping up with product and media refreshes. Nyugen said he looked into a similar Storage as a Service (SaaS) offering from PACS vendor General Electric Co., but said he found Iron Mountain's "pay as you go" pricing more flexible.

"We knew a service provider model was what we wanted," he said. "We never contemplated an on-site archive."

Seattle Radiologists currently has 2 TB stored with Iron Mountain, which it had already used to send DVDs off site. Nyugen plans to fill the archive with another 15 TB of data stored on DVDs.

If a customer doesn't have enough bandwidth to send data through, it can fill a MAS storage node with data and ship it to Iron Mountain. Iron Mountain also keeps an exact copy of the gateway server at its data center and can restore the customer's data in case of a total disaster. Data can also be restored in a worst-case scenario using encrypted portable hard drives in 1 TB or 2 TB increments.

The service can be priced on a per-study, per-month basis, or a hybrid model with an up-front charge for a certain number of images and a per-study price after that. Because pricing varies according to the customer's environment, Iron Mountain could not provide any specific pricing information.

Google pilots medical archive search program

According to a post on its official blog, Google will enter the medical archiving space to go with previous moves into the message archiving space since the acquisition and relaunch of Postini Inc. Google will use the GData protocol already available in other Google products and support standards-based medical information formats, such as the Continuity of Care Record, to allow patients to access and search their own healthcare records on the Google platform. The Cleveland Clinic is running a pilot program of the Google service.

"Cleveland is just the first of many healthcare providers that will securely send medical records and information via Google APIs at your request," wrote Alan Newberger, Google's healthcare group engineering manager, in the blog. "We've been hard at work collaborating with a number of insurance plans, medical groups, pharmacies and hospitals."


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