With facilities in 23 states and the District of Columbia, Ascension Health has well over a petabyte of images stored, and it's a very large cost for the organization to continuously expand PACS storage, Joseph said. In researching diagnostic image retention requirements at both the state and federal levels, Joseph discovered that retention time periods varied tremendously; some states did not have an image retention requirement at all, while others have complex image retention rules.
Next, Joseph evaluated the health system's current PACS vendor installations and the feasibility of doing rules-based deletion. One of the largest PACS vendors did have an image life cycle management tool, but no one had ever used it, she said.
After testing and working with the software engineers to get the tool to perform with 100% accuracy and be able to apply complex rule sets, they then tested and validated it to make sure that the space freed up in the archive could be reused. That tool has been used to delete seven years of old data from an archive, and rules have been set up to run daily to delete images that are aged and now meet the deletion rule, Joseph said.
The result has placed the archive's annual storage growth in a near-neutral pattern, she said.
"We are in the process of purging our archives that are eligible, based upon regulatory and local policy retention requirements, and putting daily deletion runs in place," Joseph said. "This process will help Ascension Health avoid significant storage media costs over the upcoming few years."