I had an MRI done on a calf muscle a few months ago. Afterwards I waited in the lobby while they burned a CD. I waited, and waited, and waited some more. Finally, I just left. The next day I spoke with someone from the office and gave them permission to courier the image over to my primary care physician. I can appreciate the regulations and processes in place that protect my privacy, but there's got to be a better way.
I caught a glimpse of a "better way" in today's Xconomy article. The medical community has been hesitant to adopt cloud storage techniques for a number of reasons. Two of the primary reasons are (a) the logistics of geographical sharing between hospitals, and (b) the security of sharing/protecting medical images stored in a cloud.
The article mentioned a start-up known as LifeImage. LifeImage is building software to go after this use case, presumably by integrating with (a) the (geographically distributed) Atmos cloud storage, and (b) RSA security software/products. LifeImage's software, known as lila(TM), "let's you e-share images with any physician, anywhere, without CDs" (quote taken from the corporate website).
The article estimates that by 2012 there will be one billion radiological exams performed in the US alone. This brings up another problem: timely analysis of the images. Are there enough doctors in the US with enough hours in the day to process that many exams?
The article doesn't explicitly mention a global network of hospitals but I can envision a use case where a medical community uses a "follow-the-sun" approach for the analysis of medical images. If a medical image is taken during a late-night emergency room visit, there's a doctor available somewhere in the world that can read it (once given permission).
This particular use case is perfect for Atmos. Hospitals that are part of a geographically disperse network can use Atmos to span locations. As each hospital enters medical images into their configuration, pre-defined policies distribute copies to global locations. Over time, as the urgency of reading the image goes away, some copies can be pruned from Atmos using an automated delete policy.
Can it all be done by 2012? That's only two years away! Startups like LifeImage are trying to make it happen.
For more details on how Atmos distributes copies via policy, read this post.