What is a VNA, anyway?

The term Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) is used by many vendors of PACS software to identify the core of their product–the component that is used to reliably manage, store, retrieve, and query medical images and related information. Unfortunately, there is no “official” definition of the functionality of a VNA. As such, VNA offerings vary from vendor to vendor. The result is confusion among users due to the lack of a baseline that permits a direct comparison of VNA functionality and features.

This white paper proposes a definition of a VNA that identifies different architecture levels and their specific functionality. The various components which make up the core of a healthcare image and information management system will be discussed. It also provides the key advantages of a VNA compared with a proprietary solution. A checklist which can be used when evaluating and/or requesting a RFI/RFP for a VNA is included as an attachment.

It is somewhat unfortunate that the term VNA has stuck as it does not really describes what a VNA is supposed to achieve. Ideally, a VNA is an archive developed on an open architecture that can be easily migrated and/or ported to interface to another vendor’s viewing, acquisition, and workflow engine to manage medical images and related information. Instead of “Vendor Neutral”, a better term would have been “Architecture Neutral”, or “PACS Neutral,” or “Third-Party Neutral.” Keep in mind that each commercial archive is provided by a specific vendor (we are not considering open-source offerings, which may be the only truly vendor neutral solution). Therefore, the word neutral does not really make sense. However, the VNA acronym has become fixed in both the medical IT user and vendor culture, so we will not make any attempt to re-phrase the term.