As the information age surges ahead and a growing number of clinical applications and upgrades become available, data storage is becoming increasingly challenging for hospitals. In order to maintain a system where data is efficiently managed and readily available, CIOs are finding that they must take serious measures, such as constructing a new data center, creating a data warehouse, or leveraging technologies like virtualization.
If it seems like more data needs to be stored now than ever before, it's because that is precisely the case, says Ken Kirch, a consultant with Weymouth, Mass.-based Beacon Partners.
Kirch identifies three factors as primary drivers in the ever-increasing storage requirements that CIOs must contend with. “We have data-intensive applications like EMRs; we have retention periods; and we also have accessibility requirements that it must be available,” he explains. “There's a perception that all the data must be available 99.999 percent of the time. So you have this huge amount of data that's being gathered that has to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
When it comes to data storage requirements, perhaps the biggest culprits are electronic records, both in terms of the volume of information that must be stored, and the rate at which it must be available for clinicians. So when Chesterfield, Mo.-based Sisters of Mercy made the decision to install Epic's (Verona, Wis.) EMR across the system, the decision to construct a new data center quickly followed.
“We needed more space for storage and we needed high availability to support operations around the clock,” said Mike McCurry, CIO of Sisters of Mercy, pointing out that data needs have evolved significantly as electronic record systems have become more widespread. “It used to be that data was accessed only between 9 and 5, but now that need is always there.”
The new data center, which began construction in April, will serve as the heart of the infrastructure for Sisters of Mercy, a 20-hospital system that must accommodate the needs of more than 28,000 IT customers. In addition to the Epic suite — which McCurry estimates will be live by April of 2010 — the center will also house the M3 enterprise resource planning system from St. Paul, Minn.-based Lawson, along with several other applications, and will facilitate future IT installs. “It will give us capabilities that we didn't have before in terms of storage,” says McCurry.
Pillars of strength
It isn't just the 15-facility health systems that are feeling the pinch. While the size of a network is certainly a consideration, sometimes the type of services offered can be just as much of a determining factor when it comes to data storage needs.
Academic institutions like Penn Medicine — a Philadelphia-based enterprise consisting of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the three-hospital University of Pennsylvania Health System — are constantly feeling the strains of storage requirements, particularly those that operate using a best-of-breed strategy, or as CIO Mike Restuccia calls it, “pillars of strength,” which means that several different information systems must be housed in one location.
In order to facilitate this, Restuccia's team, led by Penn Health System CTO Brian Wells, is developing a health system data warehouse that will pull information from several clinical and financial applications, including the Epic ambulatory EMR and the billing and accounts receivable application from IDX (which has since been purchased by United Kingdom-based GE Healthcare). On the patient side, the center will incorporate data from Malvern, Pa.-based Siemens' Invision system and the Eclipsys (Atlanta) Sunrise Clinical Manager order entry system, along with the ED and ICU systems.
All of these applications will feed into the warehouse, says Restuccia, where data will be stored in a homogenized and synthesized manner. And there won't be time to rest after that, as another round of applications will start to roll out in the next year or two.
According to Restuccia, Penn is implementing the Eclipsys Sunrise Medication Manager at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) in preparation for closed-loop medication management, and is deploying Eclipsys' Knowledge-based Charting solution.
“There's heavy emphasis, when I look at the next 12 to 24 months, on the deployment of clinical applications and the provision of access to information,” says Restuccia. “In order to aggregate all that data and be able to utilize it in a consistent manner, the warehouse becomes the logical repository for that,” he says.
The warehouse will be developed in two phases, says Wells. The first will incorporate the core systems while the second will focus on the ED system and ICU monitoring, which are “still important clinical systems, but not with the robustness or the volume through them that most of our pillars have.”
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