Smaller community hospitals and community health centers often look to leverage Health IT solutions to deliver better patient outcomes, yet they face challenges along the way. They often don’t have access to state of the art, enterprise-grade, solutions that are typically available at larger medical facilities. And due to the size of their organization, they are faced with budgetary constraints, smaller scale needs, and often their IT teams can struggle to find the right solutions to provide critical data to clinicians and staff.
“In general, health IT is just expensive to deliver,” according to Eric Grendell, Deputy Chief Technology Officer of OCHIN. OCHIN is a network based in Portland, OR, serving community health centers all over the United States. “To build enterprise-class infrastructure that is secure and HIPAA compliant is an expensive undertaking, and then when you add in the talented staff you need on top of that, it can be daunting for a community healthcare organization,” Grendell continued in an interview. “However, without it we can’t provide the access and availability that our members need for their clinical teams, both in the clinic and via vital services for remote communities like telehealth.”
Given this challenge, some community healthcare IT leaders are finding innovative ways to access and integrate enterprise-grade IT to help their organizations empower clinical and administrative teams to deliver state of the art services to their patients.
Michael Archuleta, CIO of Mt. San Rafael Hospital in Trinidad, CO, has found an innovative way to overcome these challenges and deliver value to his organization. When he started at Mt. San Rafael more than 10 years ago, there were servers and switches in housekeeping closets, a 59 percent uptime rate and no disaster recovery plan. There was a general assumption that IT was, as he said, a “bunch of guys working in a basement fixing computers and printers.”
Despite this starting point, Archuleta has built an award winning IT infrastructure that empowers clinicians at Mt. San Rafael to improve population health, boost patient engagement, and introduce new efficiencies to drive better patient outcomes. Archuleta’s starting point for the hospital’s digital transformation was the implementation of an electronic medical records system. With the success of that project, Archuleta and his team moved on to build a data center, implement a virtual desktop infrastructure, and complete virtualization of all servers.
Many smaller organizations shy away from enterprise-grade IT like all-flash solutions, believing it will be too expensive. As Grendell shared, he and his team need to challenge themselves when planning a transformation project to benefit member community health centers because every dollar spent on IT “takes money away from our members’ ability to possibly add more providers or facilities, and ultimately provide easier access to affordable care for patients.” Yet, “the return on investment, which includes more robust information security, BCDR improvements, reliable access to patient data, and improved performance, makes digital transformation essential,” he continued.
So how did these two community healthcare IT teams deliver success on what many would contend is impossible?
Grendell provided some additional insight saying, “We look for tools and technology that provide efficiencies that we wouldn’t get without enterprise-grade solutions. They enable us to manage larger systems with fewer staff, be more efficient about it, and focus on where the problem areas exactly are in order to quickly get to the source of the problem and correct it.”
According to Archuleta one contributing factor to success was due to building a strong partnership. He told us, “We’ve found that having a trusted and experienced business partner like NetApp can help you plan and execute on the vision while avoiding money pits and other points of failure. That was essential to our success.”
One example Archuleta shared was, “When we built our first data center, we wanted to add an all-flash solution. Not only would an all-flash solution deliver efficiencies in our operating costs and performance and reliability benefits to our end users, but it would support us long-term as we grew our electronic health record conversion and virtualized our servers, for example. Despite the additional CAPEX, the Board approved the funding because of the improved performance, the return on investment and OPEX savings, and the guidance we received from our team at NetApp.”
Want to learn more about how NetApp helps community hospitals and health centers become data thrivers? Click here.