The new infrastructure will allow the hospital to expand medical imaging services to regional hospitals, improving services to patients and enhancing physicians' productivity while reducing operating costs.
John Hunter Hospital is one of 12 hospitals operated by the Hunter New England Area Health Service, and the main source of specialist services in the region.
Hunter Health Imaging Service (HHIS) offers medical imaging services to Hunter region hospitals such as Radiology, Nuclear Medical, Vascular and Normal Ultrasound, Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Fluorescent X-ray.
Joanne Horst, HHIS acting manager of operational support systems, said the HHIS conducts around 175,000 procedures a year, with operations continuing to expand into new hospitals.
Horst said the organisations expects its storage requirements to double by the end of 2006, especially with the vast quantities of data they produce each day.
"An ultrasound image can be 256Kb. Or we can go up to 10Mb for a chest X-ray. Some scans are done in series of 250 to 300 images or more," she said.
Horst said that with the increase of storage requirements comes an extra demand for access to images. The end-users for the system services from Kodak Health Imaging Group are hospital staff, over 1500 doctors and other clinicians in the region's hospitals that require access to medical images.
"Patients will not always be assessed by a doctor in the hospital where the image was taken. An X-ray of a broken bone taken in one hospital, for example, may be accessed by doctors for several months after the break in different hospitals. This kind of requirement creates the need for HHIS to operate storage infrastructure that can quickly retrieve images and display them wherever and whenever clinicians need to view them," Horst said.
The PACS system was designed to store images in short to medium-term storage that would deliver images in five to ten seconds, before migrating the images to a StorageTek automated tape library.
A previous storage system was not able to cope with the increasing number of HHIS locations. HHIS found its previous medium-term storage system to be insufficient and forcing more images into long-term storage and imposing a two to three minute image retrieval time on busy medical staff.
"We have got to the point where we only had a number of weeks of medium-term storage before we had to archive images. To satisfy our clients we would ideally have three to six months of images in medium-term storage, so it was essential to upgrade to provide that immediate service and give us capacity for future growth," Horst said.
Horst said they their main concern at this point is that hospitals make sure their staff and existing infrastructure can cope with the technology. HHIS ensure there is a training phase provided to prepare the staff for the new technology as it rolls out.