When Disaster Means No Recovery

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Does turning to a PACS vendor for disaster archiving add certainty and ease to the recovery process when a mishap occurs and images must be retrieved or a PACS database must be reestablished? One New York hospital’s radiology department thought so. The PACS administrator confirms that events have proved it right so far.

Hudson Valley Hospital Center (HVHC) in Cortland Manor, NY, is like many midsize hospitals that moved quickly to get into the digital age. In 2003, the hospital’s radiology department installed its first PACS. Today, according to Erik Lundberg, manager of radiology and CT systems, the only film that the hospital processes is for a limited amount of mammography, and even that is about to go digital.

When HVHC chose its PACS, it was selected, in part, Lundberg says, because the it was, at the time, one of the few Web-based offerings on the market (the hospital wanted a Web-based solution). Once the PACS was installed, administrators at the 128-bed hospital, which serves a string of Hudson River Valley towns about an hour’s drive north of New York City, quickly turned their thoughts to disaster recovery. The World Trade Center attacks had left no illusions about invulnerability by the time the HVHC PACS was installed.

“We knew we wanted an off-site disaster-recovery storage facility. We’re pretty close to the Indian Point nuclear power plant, as well as Manhattan,” Lundberg says. A mishap or terror attack at Indian Point could eliminate or make inaccessible any on-site disaster archive, along with the original PACS data.

As it turned out, HVHC didn’t have to look far for the solution to its disaster-archiving needs. Its PACS vendor FUJIFILM Medical Systems USA, Inc, Stamford, Conn, was just rolling out its own off-site disaster-archiving option for Synapse customers. HVHC was one of the first to sign on, and the outcome has been a happy one, Lundberg reports. He says, “I think Fuji made our initial PACS entry cost-effective, and the ongoing arrangement has been cost-effective. The product with the disaster archive is stable and it’s been robust. The service has been great. We have no plans to change.”

Lundberg knows whereof he speaks. Twice now, he says, the department’s PACS has gone down, once when the local RAID had a glitch and a second (and more serious) time when there was a very rare happening in which two drives failed at once due to a RAID backplane failure.

The first time, he says, HVHC was able to recover its missing PACS files simply by downloading them over the Internet from Fujifilm’s disaster-archiving facility in Denver. Because the images and patient data were stored by Fujifilm directly from HVHC’s PACS, a direct substitution for the corrupted files was all that was needed. What Fujifilm had stored at its disaster site conformed exactly to the Synapse PACS database at HVHC, and no complicated interfacing or manipulation of the replacement files was necessary. They fit right in where the originals had been corrupted, Lundberg says.

The second mini-disaster was more serious. This time, the hospital’s PACS database was completely compromised and a simple Internet download could not solve the problem. Part of Fujifilm’s disaster-recovery contract specifies that it will, within 72 hours, airlift a backup PACS server to any client suffering sufficient damage. That is exactly what happened with HVHC, according to Lundberg. The hospital made do with files recovered via Web until the server arrived. When it did, it was simply plugged into the hospital’s PACS in place of the old PACS server. After a simple installation, HVHC’s PACS was back up and running. The server that Fujifilm had sent was an exact replica of the original server, preloaded with the PACS database, the patient information, and all the stored images. “We still have the server,” Lundberg says.

Reynold Yordy is business manager of managed services for FUJIFILM Medical in the United States. He oversees Fujifilm’s disaster-recovery unit, among other duties. Fujifilm got in the disaster-recovery business, Yordy says, because it saw a need for storage that was integrated with the Synapse PACS and the databases that its customers were compiling.

“We felt there was a need for more than simply off-site storage and the hope that a disaster wouldn’t occur, which is what a lot of vendors were providing. There was a lot of off-site storage, but it wasn’t integrated, so there was a big gap in disaster recovery. In health