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.


Blu-ray Disc

One recordable storage system to consider in the near future is the Blu-ray Disc (Blu-ray Disc Association). Currently, single-layer Blu-ray Discs hold about 25 GB of storage. A dual layer will hold 50 GB of storage, and eight-layer disks are in development that will hold 200 GB of storage. Compared with traditional DVDs, Blu-ray Discs will hold five to 10 times more data than the current DVD technology.3 Blu-ray systems cost between $500 and $1,2004 ; a recordable disk costs about 70 cents/GB, and a rewritable disk about $1/GB.5


Off-site backup involves contracting a third party to maintain a secure copy of your images. To transmit images off-site, a fast Internet connection is required. The necessary Internet connection speed depends on how much data your business needs to move a day multiplied by 2, but the minimum requirement is 36 KB/s (kilobytes per second), which excludes dial-up service as an option. The goal is to have all of your hospital's data backed up by the next business morning.

The initial cost is less than on-site backups since you will not need to purchase an on-site server, hire IT personnel, or schedule regular CD or DVD backup. However, there will be a recurring service fee. Over several consecutive years of service, the service fee may add up to more than the cost of on-site storage.

The advantages of off-site storage are ease-of-use and less initial cost. Also, off-site storage is relatively disaster-proof, and some companies store data in a nonproprietary format for future image migration. Storing data in a nonproprietary format is important because many digital image companies use proprietary imaging formats within their hospital data system. So even though images may be acquired in a DICOM standard, they may be changed and stored by the hospital software into a proprietary format. This can lock a hospital into using one vendor's software. Thus, if hospitals send copies of the original DICOM images off-site for storage, this enables them to import those DICOM images into any veterinary hospital management software in the future.6

The disadvantages of off-site storage are the ongoing costs, that it requires Internet access on at least one computer, and that images cannot be instantaneously distributed throughout the hospital. However, some off-site storage companies offer online access to images, which can allow hospital-wide image viewing.


Ideally, a hospital switching to digital imaging would have on-site and off-site storage. This solution would make data accessible across the entire network, allowing staff members access where and when they needed it and providing a secure off-site copy of the images. However, most hospitals must choose between the two. The most important point is that you choose a storage system that will keep your data safe from unauthorized access, hardware failure, and clinic disasters. For image backup and recovery in most veterinary hospitals, a high-quality RAID 5 server joined with an off-site backup service will more than suffice, but you should consult an it professional before purchasing it.

Seth Wallack, DVM, DACVR
The Veterinary Imaging Center of San Diego
7522-7524 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92111


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2. Festa P. "Click of death" strikes Iomega. CNET Networks. San Francisco, Calif. Available at:

3. What is Blu-ray? Available at:

4. Blu-Ray, the breakthrough recording technology. Available at:

5. 50GB rewritable blank Blu-Ray disk to cost $60—Panasonic. Xbit Laboratories. Available at:

6. Wright, M. Vendor lock-in in veterinary teleradiology. Animal Insides. Available at:


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