Bringing Meaning to Disparate Clinical Data

For a while, I’ve been extremely intrigued by vendor neutral archives. While they’re usually applied to the PACS and imaging world, I’ve always thought that the concept will eventually spread across all healthcare data. With that in mind, I found this whitepaper, Bringing Meaning to Disparate Clinical Data, provided an interesting view into the world of vendor neutral archives (VNA) and it was very clear to me that the problems we’re working to solve in the medical imaging world are very much applicable to the problems we need to solve with other healthcare data (ie. EHR data).

Here’s how the whitepaper suggests you evaluate VNA solutions:

  • Interoperability
  • Image accessibility
  • Disaster recovery
  • Upgradability
  • Data security
  • Ease of use

It’s quite easy to see how this same list could just as easily apply to any healthcare IT system that a hospital adopts. The image accessibility may not apply, but accessibility of data (which is what the image represents) is extremely important. I think that many organizations would be much happier with their EHR today if they’d used the above list in their EHR selection process.

The whitepaper also lists events that affect the timing and direction around enterprise image management planning:

  • Replacing a PACS
  • Joining an integrated care community
  • Accommodating new sources of images
  • Impending mergers, acquisitions, and associations
  • Storage convergence
  • Centralized management

Looking through the list, it’s very clear to me that many of the above items are going to be drivers of EHR switching as well. In fact, it’s going to make up the majority of future EHR purchases. Plus, we’re seeing a lot of changes when it comes to joining care communities and mergers, acquisitions, etc.

At the conclusion of the whitepaper, it suggests that the single most important key to choosing an enterprise solution for image management is flexibility:

  • Flexibility of connecting all kinds of devices and systems.
  • Flexibility of accessing information anywhere, anytime
  • Flexibility to scale effectively with facilities’ growing needs
  • Flexibility to meet departmental needs

We didn’t use this framework for selecting EHR vendors, but will we use it the next time around. Has our current EHR experience helped us to realize the value of flexibility with our healthcare IT software vendors? I think these will become part of the future EHR purchase process.

I don’t think the markets are that much different. The future of EHR in healthcare organizations will likely follow the path that imaging vendors have already trod. It’s just too bad we couldn’t learn from imaging’s experiences and apply them to EHR already. Since we haven’t, I think learning about the history of image management systems in healthcare will help us better understand where EHR is headed.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.