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Turning to Cloud for Better Health Care

April 15, 2014 No Comments

Featured article by Jane Munn, IBM

Physicians and healthcare facilities across the nation are facing increasing pressures to reduce costs, increase efficiency, meet regulatory requirements and, ultimately, improve patient care. One of the challenges they face in achieving those goals is how to effectively manage, store and share information.

Many doctors and medical facilities are now in the transition from handling this information with disparate systems — a mixture of islands of technology and paper records — to advanced electronic health record systems covering and integrating every aspect of healthcare, from administration to patient medical records. These new systems must provide genuine, quantifiable benefits and advantages, as Federal Meaningful Use regulations stipulate criteria for improving the capture and sharing of this information, advancing clinical processes and improving outcomes for patients.

The goal of health care providers and the IT services companies that support them is to attain those goals by providing access to that information in a manner that is robust, efficient, and secure, and that will allow for continued growth. One IBM client provides a great illustration of the value and benefits of a cloud computing model to achieve those objectives.

Inland Northwest Health Services currently serves more than 4,000 physicians and 450 clinics and physician offices nationwide, and is growing 25 percent annually. They run the world’s largest single instance of the MEDITECH MAGIC software environment — a leading operating environment for medical applications.

As they grow, they continue to roll out affordable new services for their clients. However, they eventually found that they were increasing their transaction volume at a rate that was outpacing their server and storage space, which put stress on their IT infrastructure. They turned to IBM to help design and implement a cost-effective, cloud-based solution providing increased efficiency, security and utilization for 3.5 million electronic health care records.

Together INHS and IBM developed a comprehensive data center solution based on IBM System X servers and IBM Storage systems and software. Almost 95 percent of their 1,200 servers are now virtualized, allowing them to reduce the amount of physical space needed to store the servers by 28 percent while increasing the actual data capacity. The solution also lowered power consumption needs and cooling costs.

In addition to the efficiencies realized in their data center, they’ve also seen increased system uptime, doubling performance for end users. Uptime is vital to their customers since their core application manages a vast array of health care activities, including hospital operations, admission of patients, pharmacy orders, lab services, and patient clinical information.

This cloud-based system now serves 750 physicians and 40 hospitals, with all information stored on external servers, allowing users to securely access it from wherever they are, whenever they need it. This greatly improves the flow of information and sharing of resources, helping physicians and patients collaborate more effectively and improving the care overall. The flexibility of cloud-based EHR systems is also beneficial, as it allows their customers to scale to business needs at any given time. Users can add new doctors or office locations to the system seamlessly, with no downtime.

This cloud-based system has allowed INHS to innovate processes, provide more reliable and efficient services to doctors and medical facilities, and most importantly improve the quality of health care for patients.

JaneMunn (2)

Jane Munn is vice president and business line executive for cloud computing in IBM Systems and Technology Group. She is responsible for defining STG’s cloud strategy, offering roadmap and partner ecosystem in conjunction with the overall IBM Cloud strategy and IBM SmartCloud portfolio.



CLOUD DATA, DATA and ANALYTICS , DIGITAL HEALTH, Fresh Ink, Inside the Briefcase

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