How to Improve Efficiency with a Robust Hospital Data Center Infrastructure

An effective configuration for a hospital data center can help address concerns about costs while improving operational competence and power management. Like in many industries, the healthcare industry has gone through a rapid change in just the past few years. It is an excellent representation of the impact of information technology on the strategies and execution of a business.

DataCenters Then and Now

In the past, data centers were a burdensome operational system that was too costly for healthcare organizations. Today, however, they are a critical component when it comes to delivering accurate and quality care to the patients and ensuring compliance with the regulations. These datacenters also enable collaboration and training among health professionals.

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Stakeholder groups for projects involving a data center were traditionally made up of facilities, security personnel, and IT. These days, these groups have evolved and now include physicians and surgeons, along with sustainability managers, safety managers, compliance managers, the Chief Medical Officer, and the Chief of Health Information Management among others.

The Need to Improve

The increase in the number of people and departments involved in healthcare IT places a strain on data centers today. Plus, there is a concern on the aging infrastructure of these centers and the scale at which many of the hospitals are required to increase the capacity of their data centers and their availability.

Healthcare organizations work together to choose, obtain, and implement some systems to enable the technologies they use. Unfortunately, the capabilities of the physical datacenter infrastructure of a hospital are often overlooked, primarily how it supports the scale of the deployments. The use of these technologies embodies significant change in the requirements involving a hospital data center, and it is time for healthcare organizations to assess the ability of their existing centers whether or not the can supply the associated availability.

Designing Data Centers

The good news is many of the datacenters that hospitals have today support updates to keep up with the evolving technologies. Through planning, evaluation, and collaboration, it is not just possible, but it is also easy to create additional floor spaces without shelling out a lot of money for a costly expansion. At the same time, improving the ability to support the new technologies’ density requirements can also be done.

Among the recommendations for building a capable center that can accommodate the rapid changes in today’s healthcare IT include:

Evaluating the current environment

Just like in other industries, the data centers for healthcare have many struggles, especially with providing cooling or HVAC infrastructure. In many cases, however, the cooling capacity in the current environment far exceeds the IT load that is supported by the center – often by a factor of two or three.

There should be an understanding of the ratio of IT load and the cooling capacity to help demonstrate how efficiently the center will operate. Additionally, it will help the hospital understand the density type of the existing infrastructure and what it can support on a kW/rack basis, which can be achieved if the center is effectively configured.

Collaborations

It is vital for hospitals to be actively involved with the technology plan – or at least understand it – along with the associated Information Technology infrastructure that is required to support the idea. The ongoing requirements, such as the electronic healthcare record (EHR) and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) should be encouraged since they have significant implications on (at least) the networking infrastructure and the storage of the center.

It should also be noted that the physical footprint and the proposed equipment’s density should be evaluated. These things will have a massive impact on the center in both the short and the long term.

Making small but critical changes

A hospital datacenter will usually benefit more from a small change rather than something big that will eat up all the budget of the organization. Careful planning should be done to determine what these modifications are, but they should lead to a drastic improvement in functionality, compliance with the standards of the healthcare industry, and energy efficiency.

Strategies, such as increasing the supply of air temperature, implementing orientations for hot and cold aisles, and removing unused cables or utilizing blanking panels can be a good start. These changes can make a surprising enhancement on the operation of the space for the datacenters.

Aside from the mentioned reasons, the modifications above may even improve the ability to sustain more density for every rack and ensure better use of available floor and U spaces.

Removing legacy equipment

Among the most effective means of improving energy efficiency and better use of open floor space, hospitals should take the time to remove all the retired equipment from their centers. This process also includes relocating some of the other equipment if there are equipment racks that only have a few usable pieces of gear.

In most cases, the numerous rack footprints will be freed up for more available space. It not only saves space but also provides room in case the hospital would like to expand without adding the expensive floor upgrades.

Developing an optimization plan

Once the current infrastructure operates more efficiently than it used to and there is more available floor space at the center, the hospital can work to create an augmented plan for it. The method may involve developing some zones that isolate the newer and higher-density technologies from the older or the legacy equipment.

Another idea is to segregate the center by application. This technique works by providing more significant space that can be used for expected growth in the need for storage and other Information Technology functions. Proper planning is crucial for meaningful changes that can give future scalability that can be implemented with negligible downtime.

More data storage options

Healthcare organizations are currently challenged when it comes to selecting a storage solution that best suits their IT infrastructure. On-premise and cloud storage are among the top choices, but there are now hybrid data storage solutions that may fit more hospitals.

Information Technology infrastructures are now built to be more scalable and flexible to meet the growing demand for data. Healthcare institutions have realized this fact, and they know that value-based incentives for analyzing data and the increased number of medical devices for collecting data have resulted in a significant challenge in storing clinical data.

Storing data should not just comply with HIPAA, but should also present easy access for authorized users. Traditionally, these healthcare organizations do not want to use cloud data storage. They prefer on-premise solutions because they have IT administrators who want the control over the physical datacenters. On the other hand, some entities believe that cloud storage is more manageable and less expensive, thanks to the reduction of maintenance costs. Plus, this type of storage has improved compliance with HIPAA.

One of the biggest storage challenges of healthcare organizations is piecing together their legacy systems as they integrate new systems to their IT infrastructure. Several institutions do not have the financial means and the capacity to mass migrate their clinical data from one storage location to another. For this reason, interoperability between the cloud vendors is essential to make sure the transition is smooth.

Seeking Best Practices in Information Technology for Healthcare Organizations

It is common to update or refresh technology once every three years, which is a cost-effective schedule, especially when compared to renewing and sustaining existing hardware for at least four years. Unfortunately, it is no secret that not all healthcare organizations have the chance to do the refresh on a regular basis. It is why they focus on systems that are based on optimal configurations.

Best practices for interoperabilities and efficiencies, while considering the performance, power, price, and scalability can be achieved whether the center is hosted or managed onsite. When choosing a technology configuration for hospitals’ datacenters, individual components and converged infrastructure components assembled into one optimized solution should be compared thoroughly. The selection process depends on the analysis, benchmarking, and the best-of-breed tools and technologies, along with tests performed by industry partners.

The cost-effectiveness of integrating the applications of a healthcare organization is a significant concern, which is why commodity-based equipment should be used whenever possible. It is also important to know which configurations offer flexibility when used with management tools and even free software (freeware) to help healthcare IT organizations have lower overhead.

Any datacenter configuration should include capabilities that guarantee EHR privacy, security, failover, disaster recovery, and regulatory compliance.

Healthcare facilities choose and implement their technologies concerning the services they offer. They consider the unique markets they provide those services to and how they can balance the governing requirements, while also thinking about their budget availability. These considerations can make the selection and the execution processes more complicated, but it is clear that healthcare organizations realize the benefits and they are leveraging technology as well.

The considerable implications of expanding and improving a hospital data center should be evaluated entirely in conjunction with the implementation of these technologies. Careful and sensible planning for the healthcare facilities is possible.

When done right, it can help stretch the life of the existing center for data, while enabling a successful deployment of innovative technologies and minimizing the cost of the upgrades.

What about the Cloud and it’s impact on the hospital data center of the future?

Cloud technology has RAPIDLY had an impact on data centers around the world.  Shrinking the on premise footprint and moving servers for application development and backup / recovery and disaster recovery.  Beyond that … time will tell.  Of course we’ll be here to write about it!