Storage to Go
Medical Informatics Engineering (MIE) needed an affordable and reliable storage subsystem to put together a cost-effective, turnkey Radiology Information System/Picture Archiving and Communications (RIS/PACS) product that it could market to smaller healthcare organizations. The digital records management company found exactly what it needed in Infortrend's EonStor product line.
A company that got its start more than 10 years ago provisioning bandwidth to medical organizations that needed secure communications, Fort Wayne, Indiana-based MIE today provides a number of specialty software products for healthcare companies, including document management, dictation and transcription, and RIS/PACS.
Unlike the company's WebChart application service provider (ASP) solutions, MIE's RIS/PACS product is a hardware/software turnkey product that MIE installs at the customer site. "We knew the storage subsystem had to be priced right and be reliable," says Jason Eicholtz, system administrator at MIE.
Utilizing a Web-based architecture, MIE's WebChart RIS/PACS system is used by orthopedic and other specialty medical practices, radiographic imaging centers and hospitals. PACS enable digital medical images, audio dictation and reports to be communicated, distributed, routed and viewed for diagnostic or interventional purposes to support patient care. RIS/PACS also provide long-term archival capability.
When MIE decided to put a RIS/PACS solution in the field, the organization knew it needed a system that was as maintenance-free as possible for the benefit of clients and its own staff. "Our clients are concerned about uptime without interruption in service, and our goal for ourselves is to minimize having to provide field service for downtime," says Peter Norder, executive vice president at MIE.
For customers that require RIS/PACS systems in excess of 2 terabytes of storage, MIE utilizes a storage subsystem. For RIS/PACS systems under 2TB, server system drives suffice, according to the company.
When the time came for MIE to evaluate storage subsystems, the vendor concentrated its focus on products from Infortrend and EMC, although it also reviewed storage solutions from a couple other vendors.
MIE had been an Infortrend customer for about six years, using the company's RAID storage products for its WebChart Electronic Medical Record (EMR) service.
WebChart is a browser-based software suite for managing medical records. Because WebChart modules allow users to interact seamlessly within standard browsers without the need to load software on individual PCs, MIE takes responsibility for EMR storage at its facility.
Eicholtz says MIE partnered with Infortrend about six years ago with the purchase of a 6300 series storage solution that was later replaced with an EonStor product. About 45 percent of clinicians in northeastern Indiana are using MIE's WebChart EMR, the company says.
MIE has several Infortrend products at its data center: the 12-drive bay SCSI-to-ATA subsystems standardizing on the Fibre Channel-to-SATA model. The Infortrend RAID products are part of the company's ASP digital medical records applications.
Given the company's satisfaction with Infortrend products when it came to performance, reliability and build quality, it was natural to turn to the vendor's solutions for its RIS/PACS turnkey product, says Eicholtz.
Nevertheless, any vendor's storage subsystem for the RIS/PACS product had to meet MIE's criteria for price and reliability. Some reliability criteria included: a hot spare and redundancy built into the cabinet; redundancy built into the controller as an option; battery backup module for the RAID card; the ability to define global or local spares for the hard drive; and the use of RAID 6 in the cabinet, which Eicholtz prefers for better reliability than RAID 5.
Linux Support a Plus
A number of factors helped MIE narrow down the selection process for a storage subsystem and ultimately go with Infortrend.
"We found Infortrend's EonStor to be more OS-agnostic than other vendors," says Eicholtz.
EMC, he explains, was not as far along when it came to working with generic Linux. MIE uses a custom in-house distribution of Linux. Infortrend better integrated with the LSI Logic card that enabled the controller to talk to Infortrend.
Additionally, MIE is a technical company capable of maintaining its own systems and didn't require the services that EMC offered that added to the cost of the vendor's products. "EMC had a good product, but the cost was about eight times that of Infortrend," Eicholtz says.
In Infortrend, MIE also had a partner that could provide remote field support if MIE needed it. While MIE has internal resources for on-site services to local RIS/PACS customers when and if they need it, the company is selling its turnkey product through distribution and is growing a nationwide customer base, says Norder.
MIE also provides remote system maintenance and diagnostics over dedicated communication lines or the Internet, according to Eicholtz. The company also provides administrator training to ensure that the RIS/PACS system runs at peak performance, he notes.
Still, the bottom line is that MIE wanted a storage solution that was affordable and reliable. "Infortrend was the best fit," he says. "The performance is fast, it's dependable and reliable."
MIE's RIS/PACS products begin at $20,000, with larger systems costing about $250,000. Today, most customer systems are configured with about 4TB of storage, with the largest installation using about 10 terabytes.
The company says all systems installed in the field have been trouble-free. "We're one-stop shopping for our customer. Storage subsystem integration was critical and the pedigree of the storage subsystem was of utmost importance to both our customers and to us," says Norder.
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