HIMSS: Virtualization eases IT headaches

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ORLANDO, Fla.--Sometimes it takes a health IT network overhaul to achieve EMR adoption and streamline storage, said Ken Kupetsky, CIO of Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, N.Y., during a Feb. 23 presentation at the 2011 Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) conference.

The 150-bed inpatient acute facility, which specializes in treating physical disabilities including stroke and spinal cord injuries, has an average length of stay of seven to 30 days. It had some technology concerns about using EMRs while supporting its hospital information and clinical documentation applications, Kupetsky said.

Burke has 500 users with more than 1,000 devices on its network across 15 buildings, spanning a 60-acre campus. The IT network headache that Burke faced--a small IT staff (10) and 30 IT projects going on simultaneously--was compounded by the fact that its server-attached storage environment was on its last legs with no real disaster recovery or virtualization capabilities in place.

“Our biggest problem was restoring data, and I didn’t want to outsource to manage the system in place. We could not efficiently support an EMR in this environment,” Kupetsky stated.

Burke set out to implement a faster, comprehensive digital radiology (DR) strategy to better support MediTech and MediServe applications, achieve HIMSS Stage 6 EMR adoption and create a smarter storage infrastructure though virtualization.

The hospital purchased Compellent (now owned by Dell) storage technology, spending a total of $450,000. Compellent is not a certified vendor for MediTech, but the decision to purchase the storage system was made because of its relatively low cost and solid support.

Currently, the IT infrastructure at Burke is a three-tiered storage system that pushes seldom-used data deeper into the system so that frequently used data are up close and personal on the system for faster grabs. This structure allows the system to free up server space.

During the first year of implementation, Burke installed the initial layer of storage disks (at 4.5 terabytes each), fiber switches, a tape library (which catalogs data during the day) and the tape servers. The second year included the installation of production servers, DR enclosure and an additional 6 terabytes of space. Year 3 installations included the view environments and a contracted reseller to handle the management of the system.

The system contains a 30- to 40-server farm with approximately 75 view clusters. The server backs up the data at night, Kupetsky noted.

Burke has also started to virtualize its desktops. Currently, 90 percent of the data center at Burke is virtualized with Compellent and VMware tools, which includes 110 virtual servers and desktops serving as a foundation for the organization’s DR strategy.

“Make sure all features match what your goals are,” advised Kupetsky.

The new system has made for tighter integration and improved performance for critical applications, according to Kupetsky. Transitions between programs and screens were cut in half. Another benefit is that, by not needing to hire a dedicated storage administrator, Burke has been able to save $60,000 to $80,000 a year.

Burke Rehabilitation Hospital has also achieved its goal of Stage 6 EMR status, he reported.

“Pairing storage and server virtualization provides a flexible, efficient foundation for DR,” concluded Kupetsky. “Having a better data storage system can impact the performance of critical EMR applications.”