Sparking the Storage and Sharing Revolution: Symantec Health’s Lori Wright
Radiology has a storage problem, to put it lightly: Even as the data associated with a single cross-sectional imaging study increase dramatically, HIPAA requirements to ensure patient privacy remain as stringent as ever. At last year’s RSNA meeting, a new solution appeared on the horizon in the form of cloud storage—a concept that has gained traction in other industries, but has been slower to penetrate the health-care space. ImagingBiz spoke with Lori Wright, vice president and general manager of Symantec Health, Mountain View, California, a company more closely associated with data security than with health care, on why the time is right for radiology to take to the clouds. ImagingBiz: How and when did Symantec enter the health-care market? What drew the company to radiology specifically? Wright: About four years ago, Symantec started a new vertical movement to take our existing products, which do things like secure the enterprise and manage information, and bring them to health care, where those needs really resonate. At that time, we found we had a bigger opportunity to build products specifically for health care. It’s a unique industry—the language is different; the requirements are different. We looked at the big pain points in health care that we have the skills to address—as the number-one security vendor in the world, the number-one software-as-a-service (SAAS) infrastructure vendor in the world, and the number-one storage-management vendor in the world—and we arrived at a belief that we are better positioned than anyone to solve the medical-image storing and sharing dilemma. Our interest in radiology arose from the needs centered around PACS and storage. It’s a growing problem—imaging studies are increasing in size, and according to some, will eventually represent 40% of the world’s data. Given the retention requirements around these data, hospitals and imaging centers can’t keep storing the data themselves, and they can’t pay small outsourcers who don’t have the scale or security expertise required to safeguard this information. Symantec has the expertise and technology to address two of the main challenges faced by practice administrators and radiologists in imaging centers: to grow the referral network by providing a way to exchange medical images securely with referring physicians over the Internet, and to drive down the costs of medical-image archiving. ImagingBiz: Cloud is a relatively new buzzword for radiology. How have cloud-based solutions evolved to meet the needs of health care? Wright: Cloud-based solutions have long been used in the traditional IT world; however, the adoption rate of cloud-based services in the health-care industry has been slowed down by several factors. The first is security: While it is very easy for any small company to build a cloud-based solution, it is much harder to make it secure. Health-care providers are very concerned about loss or breach of sensitive patient data stored and shared in the cloud when the company managing these data lacks the right expertise and technology to protect them. There’s also the apprehension around yet another new technology. Too many solutions offered today have negative impacts on daily operations because they are too complicated or require additional staff to manage them. We understand that the goal of technology is to streamline operations and integrate into a facility’s existing workflow, so we designed a solution that is quick and easy to implement and is so intuitive it doesn’t require any training. ImagingBiz: What does a security giant like Symantec bring to imaging? Wright: What’s exciting is that there is this movement toward being able to do things in the cloud; it’s something a lot of other industries have been doing for some time. The limitation for health care has been that this is really sensitive information. You don’t want just any vendor handling it, but it’s incredibly safe to do it with someone who knows what they’re doing. That’s what Symantec really brings. We store and manage over 50 petabytes of information for consumers, small business, and large enterprises; for reference, 50 petabytes is the equivalent of the entire written works of mankind, from the beginning of recorded history, in all languages. By using our core strengths in security and storage management, and by leveraging our large SAAS infrastructure, we are able to reduce the cost of storage and provide a secure way to share medical images easily over the Internet. ImagingBiz: How is health care different from the other industries that Symantec serves? What unique challenges have you seen? Wright: Health care is highly regulated, so the challenge is getting people comfortable with taking the leaps toward technology that can actually improve their businesses, without fear of regulatory impact. We’ve invested an extraordinary amount in making sure we have gone through the different regulatory procedures to give them that comfort. Health-care IT professionals know exactly what they need, but they’re late adopters. They’re moving toward everything being digitized, and figuring out how to store those data is a relatively new problem. ImagingBiz: How do Symantec’s products address the problem? Wright: Hospitals and imaging centers don’t want to keep storing all this information forever. Our Health Safe product is a medical-image archiving solution that we manage in our data centers. We go into a facility and give it a piece of equipment that plugs directly into its PACS and transmits information into our data centers. We provide transparency and visibility back to the facility on what’s happening to the data all the way: how much information there is; where it’s coming from, by modality and facility, how the volumes change over time, and so forth. That’s visibility they don’t have today. Once we have the medical images sitting in our data centers, we can then provide physicians and radiologists, or their staffs, with the ability to access the images over the Internet, through a Web browser, with our Health Image Share solution. They don’t have to install or download anything; they can see the image and send it (and its associated report) to another physician without needing to be on the same network. We use the Internet to enable two people to form a trusted relationship, we do our magic to confirm that relationship, and now—suddenly—you have access to that image and report on your own computer screen, through a standard Web browser. ImagingBiz: How do the Symantec Heath solutions supplement and/or replace a facility’s existing image-storage/archiving solution? Wright: Today, many organizations are in a place where they’re storing this information in their own data centers and are looking for alternatives to managing it themselves. There are huge capital requirements to procure hardware for these data centers, not to mention staffing requirements, power requirements, and real-estate requirements. It’s an oncoming train: People in health care are realizing that they can’t keep doing this themselves. Symantec will take the burden off them. We’ll take the data and move them into our shared infrastructure, and we’ll provide that as a service. We can provide this service better, and more cheaply, than any other vendor because of our economies of scale. ImagingBiz: What can you bring to a facility in savings or ancillary benefits? Wright: The total cost of ownership of our Health Safe product has represented an average savings of 25% to 75%, depending on how many copies of the data there are, where they are being kept, and on what type of storage they are being kept. Beyond pure financial savings, Health Image Share offers very real benefits in helping an organization to attract and retain more patients, to bring referring physicians into the network more efficiently, and to drive up the overall use of its modalities, not to mention the elimination of unnecessary CDs. ImagingBiz: What are the new challenges for providers of imaging services when it comes to disaster recovery and business continuity? Wright: It’s a big challenge. A number of studies say it’s at the front of many health IT administrators’ minds. HIPAA makes certain business-continuity and disaster-recovery requirements, so having an additional copy of an image (and knowing you can retrieve it) is a big deal. When we’re managing the information on behalf of an organization, we immediately write two copies; we store one in one location and another in a distant location, and we make sure that if one site goes down, the other can be immediately accessed without the organization seeing any change. We’ve ensured that the data follow all HIPAA and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act requirements, and we take special precautions to make sure we’re complying with all aspects of how the data are encrypted, moved, and handled at all times. We also keep a full audit trail of anyone who has accessed the information, so you can see that at any given time—which is something you’d normally need a whole other team of staff members doing. ImagingBiz: Why do you think that the industry is ready to outsource its storage? Wright: There is a realization that medical-image storage is becoming increasingly complex and expensive to manage, cutting into resources that could be allocated to increasing productivity and improving patient care. Imaging centers, specifically, are affected by drastic cuts in reimbursement, and they feel the urgency of stopping losing money on storage and investing in new ways to grow their referral bases. We are putting money back in the wallets of hospitals and imaging centers and helping them use the power of technology to remain competitive. Cat Vasko is editor of ImagingBiz.com and associate editor of Radiology Business Journal.