The annual RSNA conference at McCormick Place had similar themes to last year’s show, with most vendors keeping their focus on familiar topics, including the need for continued innovation beyond the radiology department, greater interoperability and the expansion of cloud technology in healthcare. Discussion concerning medical enterprise imaging also remained relatively unchanged from last year’s conference, though this may be a sign of where market focus will be directed over the next few years.
After speaking with a number of medical enterprise imaging vendors at the conference, a few trends became clear:
The traditional PACS vs Independent VNA debate is ongoing
As market demand for vendor neutral archives (VNAs) continues to grow, so too has the diversity and volume of vendor offerings, complicating the idea of what a “true” VNA is. Vendors labelling themselves as independent feel they represent true neutrality, while “enterprise PACS” players, such as GE Healthcare and Fujifilm feel that this distinction is becoming increasingly irrelevant as they introduce their own VNA products or acquire competitors.
Independent VNA vendors provide solutions that they feel do not keep patient data limited to proprietary applications, and have continued to brush against traditional PACS vendors, claiming that their “pure” solutions offer increased data ownership and greater interoperability compared to their competitors. This debate was again evident at RSNA with both streams showcasing their latest advances; however, acquisitions and partnerships are growing across the exhibition floor, certainly blurring the lines between these two groups.
Buyers care about features, not labels
Regardless of how a vendor wants to categorize itself, the customer is going to make a decision based on what the solution can do. With the growing popularity of VNAs, buyers are now exposed to differing levels of vendor competence and product maturity. Apart from fundamental features of a VNA, such as true application neutrality, flexibility and accessibility, a standard industry checklist for VNA maturity does not currently exist. Nevertheless, there are a number of features that can help differentiate more advanced VNA systems from others, such as advanced analytics, integrated migration tools, XDS capabilities and more. Vendors such as Mach 7 Technologies and Lexmark Healthcare openly expressed this need for a VNA maturity model, in order to explain the capabilities of existing VNA solutions in the market and to further educate buyers during the purchasing process.
Having a VNA is not enough
As healthcare organizations continue to embrace enterprise solutions, a variety of technologies will need to be bridged to effectively centralize patient information management, including VNA, image exchange, HIE, enterprise viewers, worklists and enterprise content management (ECM) platforms. Healthcare organizations are already looking beyond image storage to seek a broader strategy encompassing all forms of structured and unstructured content (clinical, financial and operational), regardless of location or format, for a comprehensive patient record.
Although there is still plenty of “buzz” surrounding VNA, providers and vendors are clearly setting their sights beyond the single function of image storage towards more comprehensive enterprise clinical content management. However, the path towards enterprise data storage will take time, especially with many US hospitals still feeling “EMR fatigue” and holding tight to whatever dollars they have left.