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How One Community Hospital Keeps Pace with Data Growth

September 13, 2013
by John DeGaspari
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Higher data volume has led to a streamlined backup process

Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, N.Y., a 294-bed community hospital, has seen its volume of data to grow significantly in the few years. That, in turn, has prompted the hospital to streamline the ways it manages and backs up its data from a business continuity perspective.

Jeff Woods, the hospital’s technical services manager, says the volume has grown from about 12 terabytes seven years ago to roughly 120 terabytes today, and that the volume of data has spiked during the last two years. He names several factors driving the increase. “Prior to 2005, the systems we had in place were primarily non-clinical—back-end systems, administrative and financial,” he says, adding that clinical data was limited to laboratory and pharmacy data. That changed with electronic health record (EHR) implementation, which has led to a large increase in clinical data: “There’s more and more automation, and therefore more and more data,” he says.

Woods also notes that advancements in imaging technology have also driven data volume significantly. Those are clinical images, in the form of x-rays, CT scans and MRIs, as well as non-clinical applications such as security systems. “Cameras used to be closed-circuit; now they are all network based, and software and hardware to store the data is now all on the network,” he says.

In the last three years, the Samaritan’s IT department has doubled or tripled the amount of storage capability it needs to keep on hand, he says.

In addition, Woods says that the acceptable window for downtime has diminished from a business continuity perspective. A few years ago 12, 24 or even 36 hours were acceptable while a system was restored; that is no longer the case, he says. Because tape backup-and-restore is time-consuming, Samaritan has moved to put more primary backup on spinning disk.

Samaritan also uses a virtualized environment, so its clinicians can stay mobile, moving from computer to computer, having the desktop “follow” them throughout the facility. “We use solid-state disks to support that, because solid state disks are very fast,” Woods says. “We have 2 terabytes of data on just solid-state disks for our virtual desktops,” he says.

All of those factors, which have been implemented in the last two or three years, have driven exponential growth in the hospital’s data requirements. In the last year alone, Samaritan’s data volume has grown from 60 terabytes to 120 terabytes.

The large growth in the volume of data from various applications has led Samaritan to consolidate its backup operations. Since 2009 the hospital had been using the Integrated Serverless Backup system (supplied by Bridgehead Software) for its Meditech EHR. The backup system had been run alongside three other backup systems for non-Meditech applications, including enterprise services, Windows file servers and picture archiving and communication system (PACS) data.

In June, the hospital consolidated the four disparate backup systems into a single Healthcare Data Management platform (also supplied by Bridgehead). According to Woods, before the consolidation, the task of monitoring and managing four different systems, which previously took two technicians three hours a day, can now be handled in 15 or 20 minutes a day.

More coverage on data storage will appear in the October issue of Healthcare Informatics.