How to store digital images and comply with medical recordkeeping standards - Veterinary Medicine
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How to store digital images and comply with medical recordkeeping standards
Storing digital radiographs is just as important as storing film-basedradiographs. Here's what you need to know to choose the appropriate storage system for your practice.


Compared with hard-copy radiographs, digital images require less physical storage space, allow rapid storage and retrieval, and avoid loss in image quality over time or with duplication. Several options for image storage systems are available, including on-site secure redundant storage, Network-Attached Storage, Storage Area Networks, recordable removable media, and off-site image backups.

Seth Wallack, DVM, DACVR
Regardless of the storage system used, make sure your digital images are stored in a nonproprietary format. Human medicine has adopted the Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) standard. Think of DICOM as a language that all computers speak so they can communicate effectively. The American College of Veterinary Radiology supports and recommends DICOM as the digital imaging standard in veterinary medicine. Storing images in a DICOM format will help guard against problems with future data transfer (see the article "An introduction to DICOM" ).


With this method, a veterinary hospital must purchase a server with redundant storage such as a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) server or a direct attached storage system.

RAID server

By storing data on more than one disk, RAID servers ensure that no data are lost if one disk in the array fails. If one disk fails, it can usually be exchanged without interrupting normal system operation or losing data. Well-built RAID servers typically have an audible alarm that alerts personnel if a disk fails. RAID servers have different configurations, and a RAID 5 server or higher is recommended because of high reliability and high performance.

Proper Image Storage: A Legal and Ethical Requirement
On-site image storage allows immediate image access and hospital-wide image distribution, especially when partnered with a Picture Archive Communication System (PACS). RAID systems cost $5,000 to $20,000 and have ongoing maintenance costs, which include hiring information technology (IT) personnel. On-site RAID servers do not protect images from disasters such as floods, fires, server theft, or building destruction.

Direct attached storage

Direct attached storage consists of separate cabinets that contain a RAID 5 or higher configuration. The storage capacity is limited only by the number of slots available and the configuration used. Theoretically, it is possible to create a storage unit that contains up to 16 500 GB drives in RAID 5, 6, 10, or 50 configurations for varying degrees of backup. Data on a direct attached storage system are always accessible, and backup can be continuous. In addition, these systems can be partnered with a storage software program.

Unfortunately, even with the costs of disks always decreasing, direct attached storage would cost about $10,000 to implement. And although redundant, direct attached storage systems can experience catastrophic failure with complete loss of stored data.


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