Merge June 2023 newsletter: From training to enablement

What’s the difference between training and enablement? The simple answer is that training is a component of enablement, but it also involves several other supporting components to assist you with tools to success. We are listening to your feedback with more openness and thoughtfulness to moving forward with an approach to enablement. The other supporting components include Clinical Workflow Analysis and Consulting, Optimization Services, and supplemental and accessible video content data via Merative Learning Academy.

In summary….

As we build out the components to enablement, we will post announcements and general availability in Merge Communities. We look forward to our continued collaboration and partnership in 2023 and beyond!

-Jan Mba

Solutions Consulting Executive, Merge Imaging Solutions

Your cloud journey with Merge

For this next section, I’ll turn things over to our senior product manager, John Hally, to delve into our cloud capabilities.

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Merge has over 10 years’ experience in Cloud SaaS and over seven years' experience with cloud-native Kubernetes systems that take advantage of the public cloud’s pay-for-what-you-use model. We believe in a standards-based, hybrid-cloud-native approach to move your applications to the cloud, at your pace, as depicted in the on-ramp image above. Our Merge Imaging Suite SaaS enables you to start with tier 2 cloud storage shared between on-premise VNAs, to progressing or jumping right into hybrid business continuity with a small cache of data and applications on-premise. We will dive into this further in our blog as well as at our User Conference in Austin this September 10-12.

Merge Imaging Suite currently comprises a feature-rich array of solutions – Merge VNA, Merge Universal Viewer, Merge Workflow Orchestrator, and Merge AI Orchestrator – thoughtfully designed for imaging clinicians to enjoy a seamless workflow experience. It is personalized for them to focus on the velocity and quality of patient care, while enabling tighter collaboration with extended care teams. The end result enhances clinician satisfaction and retention, and drives better patient outcomes. Merge Imaging Suite also benefits technical functions such as IT and imaging informatics teams. As a modular, integrated, cloud-native medical imaging platform, it maximizes availability, security, performance, ease of administration, and remote access, while also reducing your IT burdens and cost.

Cloud-native applications leveraging Kubernetes, such as our Merge Imaging Suite, can scale dynamically at the application level where the containers spin up and down as the work comes in. In a public cloud like Microsoft Azure, this enables Merge to pay for what we use at peak times and pass those savings back to you in a price per study model. When you think of on-premise or a cloud VM you are always spec’ing the resources for the peak use, which for a majority of time sit idle, equating paying for resources you don’t need in a public cloud vs scaling application containers with Kubernetes.

Hybrid cloud means you have some applications and data on premise and some in the public cloud which we believe is the best of both worlds for critical applications like in medical imaging. The question we always ask clients is “if your external network goes down (like the classic backhoe incident) or the cloud itself does, how much data and applications do you need local to continue to provide patient care?” That varies across organizations, especially acute and ambulatory one, where some accept six months of data while others may want seven years and everything in between. This is where dipping your toe into public cloud with our tier 2 cloud storage service, leveraging Azure Blob storage, is a great first step on your journey.

Tier 2 Cloud Storage service with our Merge VNA on-premise enables customers to shrink their on-premise storage footprint to months or years of tier 1 NFS storage while securing all studies in Azure Blob. We leverage Azure Blob zone redundant storage (ZRS), which is comprised of three copies of data on three separate data centers in a given region (like Central US in Iowa), or wherever is closest to your facility. We provide the managed service to setup, secure, and monitor your storage, which is backed by Azure Blob’s 99.9999999999 (12 9’s!) of durability, meaning your data will almost never get lost through corruption.

The Merge VNA Tier 2 function will zip (tar ball) images up at a study level and keep track of all the byte lengths for images/ frames so we can pull individual images on the fly for fast time to first image, while saving on transaction costs. We have found that zipping at a study level reduces the number of transactions by an average of 84% against storing individual images, thus cost savings. We know most of you are not cloud experts and want a consistent way of billing, which is why we model in all these transaction and egress costs into a flat per TB price for this service. Leveraging Merge Imaging Suite VNA in the cloud we can offer Tier 2 cloud storage as the flat per TB or model that into your per study cost, with a cap on average study size for a more consistent monthly bill.

Hybrid-Contingency and Hybrid-Production are the same architecture of full copy of data and applications split between on-premise and cloud, with the only difference being your primary day-to-day use is on-premise or in the cloud. By moving one of your application stacks (Primary or Contingency) to the cloud you gain greater geo-resiliency with business continuity. Each customer gets their own instance of the applications while we share infrastructure for cost and scale along with all the cloud operations’ management. Multi-instance gives you the ability to control when an upgrade can take place versus multi-tenet where every customer would get an upgrade at the same time.

A Hybrid-Business continuity model is one where your primary applications and full data are in the cloud, but also provide a small edge or cache of data and applications on-premise to revert to in case of downtime. This seems like the best fit for most of our clients as a landing spot for the foreseeable future, as you reduce your on-premise footprint greatly, but still have enough so you can provide patient care in the case of downtime.

Fully Cloud hosted means all you have is the edge to communicate securely to the cloud and no other applications or substantial data footprint on-premise. This means you are comfortable with the cloud, your networks, and your downtime procedures if something were to happen.

We believe the journey to the cloud is inevitable for medical imaging and we are here to provide solutions and architectures to meet your needs while partnering with you as you move along this journey with us. Be sure to engage with our user community and user groups, and we’ll hopefully see you in Austin TX for our user conference where we will dive even deeper into what cloud means and how our Merge cloud capabilities can help your organization.

LAST CALL: AI Adoption Survey (and win $5 coffee gift card!)

A penny for your thoughts? Or how about $5 in coffee?

You may have seen in May's newsletter that the Merge team is eager to know your thoughts on AI-powered diagnostic imaging tools. We opened the 2023 Merge Client AI Adoption Survey on May 17 with the goal of getting a view on what our valued customers -- like you -- are doing about your AI strategies. We use this data to help us think more carefully about how and where to provide information about these transformative (and at times controversial) new products.

Responses have been trickling in.  To inspire more survey-takers, and to thank you for your time and attention in completing the survey, you will receive a $5 gift card redeemable with several popular coffee brands. This offer stands till June 30 when the survey closes.

The survey takes ~5 minutes. It's 100% optional and anonymous, but if you want to be contacted by someone here to talk further, we are always available. There is a question in the survey to request that a Merge representative reach out to you.

Thanks in advance for helping us help you better.

A user conference for you, with you

Registration is now officially open for the 2023 Merge User Conference in Austin, Texas.

This year’s lineup includes a keynote address from Dr. Cheryl Peterslige, founder and CEO of Vidagos; a physicians panel moderated by Brian Casey from The Imaging Wire; and a panel discussion hosted by Monique Rasband, KLAS VP of Strategy and Research for Imaging/Oncology.

Register today.