N.J. Teaching Hospital Parlays Cardiology & IT Partnership into New Business Model

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Cooper University Hospital has quietly redefined the hospital IT business model. Toward the end of 2009, the Camden, N.J.–based academic medical center chose a new model that pairs VMware vSphere server virtualization with a robust McKesson cardiovascular information system (CVIS) architecture as well as a solid partnership with both vendors to deliver profound clinical and IT benefits. “This is the future,” opines Cooper CTO Paul Shenenberger.

On the IT side, the model packs a one-two punch that begins with the basics such as lower costs and accelerated deployment. At the next level, the approach allows the IT department to focus on proactive value-added service to the hospital such as knowledge leadership. At the same time, McKesson’s Horizon Cardiology CVIS propels the cardiology department into the digital age, providing instant anytime/anywhere access to echo studies and enabling a more efficient and competitive approach for the Cooper Heart Institute. VMware vSphere server virtualization delivers additional value; the platform minimizes IT ownership costs, provides the flexibility to efficiently ramp up applications and helps the IT department to employ a proactive service-oriented business model.

Essential infrastructure

Cooper University Hospital was ideally positioned to become the first site in the nation to successfully deploy a CVIS in a virtualized server environment. In doing so, the hospital became a pioneer, running the mission-critical tier 1 CVIS on VMware vSphere server virtualization. Most importantly, its IT department operates in partnership with clinical departments. That is, as clinical departments build proposals for new IT investments, they begin the process with a score card detailing clinical requirements. Next, the clinical department presents the IT shop with two or three viable vendor options. In the final stages, IT takes the lead, ensuring that enterprise IT requirements are met while handling negotiations with the vendors.

As the hospital nudged forward on its CVIS project, IT was in the early stage of transitioning from a traditional server environment to a virtualized server environment. The traditional server environment, Shenenberger says, seemed to have run its course. In fact, the universal challenges of power, space and cooling had nearly forced the hospital to consider purchasing power off the street to increase capacity. “It would have been very expensive,” asserts Shenenberger. Instead, Cooper University Hospital embraced the green model and decided to leverage virtualization to conserve electricity. In this model, the hospital strongly prefers clinical applications with virtualization support in the server side. As the IT department analyzed the server virtualization market, it became apparent that VMware led the field, says CIO Michael Sinno. “We wanted a robust, best-of-breed solution,” explains Shenenberger. vSphere fit the bill, offering the functionality and features the project required. What’s more, VMware delivered a strong business partnership, providing key engineering resources to Cooper University Hospital and McKesson to ensure a successful project implementation.

The traditional server configuration ties a single server to each application, creating massive server warehouses in organizations such as hospitals. Virtualization negates the one-server/one-application model. Virtualization software creates a virtual machine that operates multiple operating systems with multiple clinical applications on a single computer, which extends IT resources and simplifies IT management.

As IT built the case for virtualization, cardiology continued to press the clinical and business case for a CVIS. “We had a decentralized, analog-based model for echo study review. It was one of the few areas where the hospital was not cutting-edge,” recalls Sinno. Cardiologists were stuck in the inefficient videotape era, which meant couriering STAT studies among five hospital sites. A CVIS deployment promised to transform workflow and patient care with physicians able to instantly review studies almost anywhere. On the business side, increased productivity could allow cardiologists to meet pent-up demand for additional cardiac imaging studies.

In early 2009, the hospital gave the cardiology CVIS project the green light and it became the pilot project for server virtualization. After the clinical department created its score card and narrowed potential CVIS vendors to two, IT took the lead