Early detection for breast cancer is important for all months of the year, not just October. According to the Society of Breast Imaging, mammogram screening has helped reduce breast cancer mortality by more than 30% in the U.S. As Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close, we felt it particularly fitting to share our case study on ways digital transformation is happening in the radiology and mammography space. Austin Radiological Association (ARA) is an outpatient imaging services provider with 17 centers across Central Texas. It also provides radiology services at 20 area hospitals – mammograms to magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) – while operating specialty imaging centers for women and children.
To say ARA’s work is vital is an understatement. Their services are in high demand and the organization has been growing rapidly, so much so that their infrastructure was in danger of falling behind. Three primary issues made it clear a modern, cloud-based file infrastructure was needed, stat.
- Increased Demand: Every year, ARA stores nearly 1 million digital studies for the hospitals and medical orgs it supports and more than 900,000 radiological exams are added to its archives, annually. As image quality has improved, size has gotten larger; 3D mammography images are about 20 times larger than the 2D predecessor. This growth, accompanied by strict medical and legal retention policies, meant ARA could no longer rely on traditional file storage.
- Unpredictable Needs: ARA’s storage growth for mammography were unpredictable. If needs increased suddenly, IT was stuck. They’d have to get a quote from a storage vendor for more storage, gain approval from a committee, then sit anxiously through a 90-day waiting period as they watched existing hardware approach capacity.
- High Costs: Migrating files from one storage array to another took so much IT time, ARA often was planning its next storage upgrade even as the current one was still in process. One 150 TB migration took 10 months to complete. ARA transitioned to a newer clustered file storage solution, but that was also limited, required expensive floor space in the data center and strained the cooling system. These, and other costs, were adding up and taking a toll.
The Right Diagnosis
After evaluating cloud-based file storage options, ARA felt Nasuni was the one that could best deliver the scalable capacity, high performance image access, data protection, security and ease-of-management its mammography practice required. Because Nasuni works with any private or public cloud object storage platform, ARA could also leverage its preferred provider, Microsoft Azure.
ARA worked with Nasuni Professional Services to deploy a global file system backed by Azure object storage that answered its needs. Foremost, with Nasuni edge appliances deployed at each office, radiologists were assured reliable and fast local access to cached mammography images through standard file sharing protocols.
According to ARA’s CIO, R. Todd Thomas: “It wasn’t just our never-ending capacity headache that made our decision to move to Nasuni and Azure easy. This hybrid cloud solution enables us to focus our limited time and resources on growing, running and transforming our business, rather than running an ever-expanding datacenter. And Nasuni Professional Services made the transition seamless.”
Nasuni was able to unify file storage, access, backup, disaster recovery (DR) and management for ARA under one cloud-scale solution. It’s an approach that has already delivered far-reaching benefits and extremely healthy results.
- Unlimited Storage: With Nasuni’s global file system, ARA can store, protect, manage and extend access to medical images and other files without worrying about capacity or volume. What’s more, there’s no 90-day wait for IT to install new storage hardware. With a few mouse clicks, ARA can increase their Azure and Nasuni subscriptions and get all they need on-demand.
- Less Investment: To keep pace with storage growth rates, ARA would have had to make a $1.3 million up-front investment in storage arrays. The unlimited capacity of Azure object storage, combined with Nasuni’s cloud-native file system, eliminated this need.
- 40-50% Savings: ARA feared cloud storage would be costly due to high egress charges and capacity pricing. Nasuni minimized both. Intelligent caching algorithms all but eliminate egress costs. Compressing and deduplicating data prior to it being sent to the cloud is expected to decrease storage capacity 60% over three years.
- Higher Performance: Radiologists need access to even the largest images without delay to deliver the prompt, high quality patient care for which ARA is known. Nasuni caches frequently accessed files on edge appliances so images are available at LAN speed. Even when retrieved from Azure storage, performance easily meets end user standards.
- Improved Data Protection, Recovery & Security: Nasuni’s versioning file system protects files in Azure as they change, eliminating the need for separate backup or DR solutions, while vastly improving recovery point and time objectives (RPO/RTO). Access can be restored in minutes. The solution also offers many more security and compliance benefits than traditional storage.
A Prognosis With Promise
“Moving our 3D tomography images to the Nasuni/Azure platform has protected our capital budget from large and lengthy storage procurement requests every two to three years,” noted Thomas. “In the first year alone, we estimate we saved $1.2 -1.3 million in storage costs with the Nasuni/Azure solution.”
ARA is continuing to modernize its approach to storing, sharing, protecting and managing unstructured data at scale. And it’s all being accomplished through a simple, unified solution, one that meets strict compliance and security requirements, while delivering millions in savings in the process.
ARA’s has a foundation to grow and a promising prognosis for an even greater future.
For more details on how Austin Radiological Association transformed its global file storage infrastructure, download the case study now.