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Healthcare Data Storage: Shaking up the Bits?

January 9, 2013
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Recent press releases of company acquisitions may be a bell weather for health information storage


Two recent press releases caught my attention and appear to be indicators of a shakeup coming in terms of healthcare data storage.  A couple years ago I blogged about the “thunder in the cloud” as a wave of activity attempted to address data storage in the cloud.  In a similar way, these recent announcements seem to be a bell weather for a similar revolution in terms of local data storage.

I am referring to Lexmark’s announced acquisition of Acuo Technologies for $45 million, and Imation’s acquisition of Nexsan for $120 million.  The significance is the draw of larger companies, lured by the explosion in storage requirements for health information data.  Of greatest significance to me is Lexmark’s apparent intent to collectively address both document and image data within a single vendor experience.

According to Lexmark’s press release, Acuo will join Lexmark’s Perceptive Software group “to showcase Lexmark's transition to being a key solutions provider to enterprise-sized businesses and organizations across the globe.”  Perceptive Software “becomes the only vendor to … offer a solution that drives better patient care, an enhanced clinician experience and cost savings through a single, enterprise-wide and content-based medical record that is accessible via any electronic medical record (EMR) system.

According to the Imation press release, “Imation will provide the Nexsan business with global scale and a well-known storage brand for global expansion. With SMBs [small and medium sized business] and SMEs [distributed enterprise storage] struggling to address their rapidly increasing data storage and management needs, the combined Imation and Nexsan portfolio will offer customers an attractive, price / performance alternative to competitive offerings.

Imation is no stranger to the imaging market having been an early innovator in the laser printer market as a spinoff of 3M.  Surely all that healthcare industry experience is long-gone, but I would have to believe that they would view healthcare as a key market for data storage.

The combination of Lexmark and Acuo is intriguing from the enterprise-wide content-based perspective.  As imaging becomes more of a factor driven by ARRA/MU, this strategy makes a lot of sense.  Why maintain multiple storage platforms for documents and images when they can be addressed in a singular platform?  The advent of the IHE’s (Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise) XDS (Cross Document Sharing) profile may be a further incentive for integrated information management, particularly across enterprises.

The challenge now will be to see how quickly this concept catches on, and the ability of healthcare providers to adapt to it.  It will be fun to watch the industry’s reaction to these innovators.  Will application providers (such as EMR and document management vendors) feel encroached upon?  Will basic infrastructure vendors rush into more relationships and marriages with other document and image management application vendors?  Will IT organizations see the value of consolidating to a single platform? 

Clearly, any IT organization in the midst of considering updates/changes to either imaging or document management storage should be sensitized to the need to look the cost/benefits of a potential integrated platform. 

Stay tuned!  I think we are in for some interesting times.