Radiology embracing the flexibility of imaging data stored off-site in the cloud


Radiology is navigating towards cloud and enterprise imaging solutions to overcome IT challenges and unlock new possibilities for workflow efficiency, research, artificial intelligence and ultimately improve the quality of patient care. 

Health Imaging spoke with Lyle McMillin, principal healthcare product manager at Hyland, at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) 2023 meeting to shed light on the current trends he is seeing in radiology IT, specifically what solutions health systems are adopting to address various challenges.

"What we're seeing is customers are wanting to make that next leap forward. They are wanting to put that data to use, whether it be to drive AI models that they're interested in procuring and bringing on site. They're interested in for our academic medical centers. They're interested in providing that content to the researchers so they can drive new research initiatives within the organization. And then just overall helping the clinicians make better decisions with the data they manage. But just like any other large activity around data, most of the time is spent wrangling it into one place," McMillin said.

Moving imaging datasets to the cloud is a paradigm shift

"Where we're getting a the greatest amount of interest from our customers is really on understanding how they can move their imaging datasets to the cloud. They are realizing they have staffing shortages and the security demands are rising. And the cloud seems to be one of those pathways forward that could help," McMillin explained.

Health systems are exploring ways to replicate on-premise functionalities in the cloud, offering faster access to infrastructure. However, a key challenge lies in the shortage of skilled IT staff and the learning curve associated with new technologies and pricing models.

"The executives we speak to are keen on moving away from managing on-premise data centers due to staffing shortages, rising security demands, and the overall burden of maintaining infrastructure. The cloud is emerging as a viable solution to free up resources for more valuable tasks," McMillin added. 

Post-COVID realities and remote work dynamics

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the dynamics of IT staffing have undergone a transformation. With many IT staffs working remotely, health systems are reconsidering the necessity of on-site data centers.  McMillin said moving data off-site also reduces costs for healthcare organizations.

"As we peel away the layers from talking to those executives, they're all wanting to get out of the data center business," he said.

Another driving force behind the shift to cloud-based solutions is the realization of efficiency gains. Managing an on-premise data center involves various complexities, including requests for proposals (RFPs), migrations and hardware maintenance. By eliminating these processes, health systems can achieve soft dollar savings and redirect staff towards more impactful projects.

Eliminating data silos

McMillin highlighted the persistent challenge of data silos, especially in managing large imaging data sets. Health systems, aiming to leverage AI models and support research initiatives, struggle to consolidate diverse data sources. The need to eliminate silos and centralize data has gained renewed importance as health systems aim to make data more accessible for clinicians and researchers.

"They are realizing dermatology photos are in one location, wound care photos are in another. The radiology  DICOM images that they've been managing for years could be in 12 different picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) systems they have. They are also trying to capture digital pathology and its large gigabyte size files, and they're not able to bring it all together in one place. So these things that we've been talking about for 15 or 20 years, how do you eliminate silos. It now seems to be taking on new life with our customers because they want to drive AI initiatives, they want to drive research, they want to be interoperable, make the data available to their clinicians, and they're struggling with the old ways of doing things where it is just not possible to make all those new initiatives a reality," McMillin said.

A new approach to enterprise imaging

The interview also revealed a growing trend towards a need for different approached to enterprise imaging. Health systems are increasingly focusing on bringing together various types of imaging data under a unified management system, blurring lines between PACS and vendor-neutral archives (VNAs).

This is indicative of a broader movement towards holistic enterprise imaging strategies.Enterprise imaging with all data stored in central VNA or cloud, enables access anywhere by many types of devices. Gone are the days when you had to use dedicated workstations for each PACS or imaging modality. McMillin said simply bringing everything under one layer of management makes it simple from an IT prospective as well to do backups and hardware refreshes, rather than needing to do these on multiple platforms or upgrade software on individual computers. 

"I think really it's those multiple points of entry into all your data is really what's driving that change. And I think it is gotten highlighted during COVID that people need to find new ways of centralizing and managing content, especially when their employees are all over the country," he added.


Dave Fornell is a digital editor with Cardiovascular Business and Radiology Business magazines. He has been covering healthcare for more than 16 years.

Dave Fornell has covered healthcare for more than 17 years, with a focus in cardiology and radiology. Fornell is a 5-time winner of a Jesse H. Neal Award, the most prestigious editorial honors in the field of specialized journalism. The wins included best technical content, best use of social media and best COVID-19 coverage. Fornell was also a three-time Neal finalist for best range of work by a single author. He produces more than 100 editorial videos each year, most of them interviews with key opinion leaders in medicine. He also writes technical articles, covers key trends, conducts video hospital site visits, and is very involved with social media. E-mail:

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