News

Storage industry cautiously welcomes budget’s medical imaging boost

Simon Sharwood

Australia’s 2011-2012 Federal Budget included an unexpected fillip for the storage industry in the form of a $717million spend on medical diagnostic imaging.

Medical imaging techniques like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are very powerful diagnostic tools, and also very effective consumers of storage: a single MRI image can easily reach 100 megabytes. The budget makes MRI and other medical imaging services more affordable for many Australians, which should increase takeup and therefore spur demand for storage capacity in the healthcare community.

Hitachi Data Systems’ (HDS’) Adrian de Luca said “This investment in diagnostic imaging will obviously lead to more data being produced from MRI scans. However, in Australia there is still some work to be done around specialists and GPs receiving images in digital format rather than film, before we see notable growth in this sector”

HDS, he added “... is currently working with a number of healthcare organisations such as the Queensland Brain Institute and Perth Radiological Clinic; providing them with a more robust and scalable storage infrastructure to cater for their burgeoning growth in electronic health records.”

HP was in its quiet period before a results announcement when approached by SearchStorage ANZ, so the company’s Storage Business Manager for South Pacific, Mark Nielsen, could only offer us the bland comment that “Digital imaging in the medical sector, including diagnostic imaging, continues to grow as health organisations create new ways to use technology to support better health outcomes. HP welcomes any investment that will help health providers to achieve this goal.”

The Storage Networking Industry Association of Australia and New Zealand (SNIA ANZ) welcomed the investment, but warned that the volumes of data created by medical imaging will mean investment must be directed beyond imaging systems.

 “Agencies that offer these services will need to ensure the storage infrastructure they operate is ready to cope with increased demand for MRI,” said Craig Scroggie, Chairman of SNIA ANZ in a press release. “They’ll also need to ensure they can backup and archive the increased quantities of data that is inherent in a greater volume of diagnostic and digital imaging.”

“ Healthcare organisations have told SNIA ANZ that they need to store medical images indefinitely and need speedy access to images regardless of age. If health service operators aren't ready to deal with these requirements, and don’t have skilled experts to manage the enormous volumes of data medical imaging creates, practitioners may find it hard to access diagnostic images, and e-health initiatives may also suffer if archives cannot quickly produce patients’ historical records.”