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EHR expansion in health care demands a focus on storage


Hospitals Rely on IT to Move ‘From Data-Rich to Data-Driven’

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began to overshadow other IT priorities, healthcare organizations faced myriad challenges to their infrastructure, says Mutaz Shegewi, an IDC research director.

These hurdles include EHRs and digital transformation; the rise of medical consumerism; and complex merger and acquisition deals that bring separate groups of people, platforms and tools under the same umbrella.

“Providers have data flooding into their systems, and now the question is what do they do with it,” says Shegewi, who leads IDC’s provider IT transformation strategies practice. “They’re trying to make the switch from data-rich to data-driven.”

The rise of telemedicine, greatly accelerated by the pandemic, has put pressure on providers to optimize their data infrastructure, Shegewi says. But healthcare organizations are historically slow to adopt new data center technologies, and COVID-19’s impact on budgets has further limited modernization initiatives.

Proactive, forward-thinking organizations will see a host of benefits, Shegewi says, including improved employee efficiency, ease in automating services, elimination of data silos and stronger security.

“A modernized infrastructure provides a more agile environment,” he says. “At the heart of it is being able to take action and deploy new capabilities to the workforce.”

How FastMed’s Data Center Initiative Got Going Quickly

Starting from close to scratch at data center sites in Arizona and North Carolina, FastMed leaders saw early challenges in establishing third-party relationships with vendors and service providers, Lee says.

A partnership with CDW removed those hurdles.

“We leaned on CDW services to match Epic’s requirements with our business requirements for storage — like ease of management, scalability, performance, resilience and, obviously, time to deploy,” Lee says. “Then, CDW acted as a gatekeeper between us and the vendors, making our life easier.”

CDW also worked with FastMed IT teams to produce a project playbook with supporting data to generate fundamental buy-in from executives for the project to move forward, says Neil Marlowe, the organization’s CTO.

“Executive support was crucial for us; they were heavily involved from the get-go,” he adds. “Correct team composition and incentives are also critical for a project like this.”

By late January, FastMed had 34 people working on the project — up from an IT staff of eight — and had established 21 new relationships with vendors and service providers. Working with CDW and other partners to build the data centers on consecutive April weekends, the team’s first scheduled Epic rollout to Arizona clinics launched on schedule in September.

With the EHRs of 1.7 million patients, along with other streams of data from FastMed’s clinical and business operations, the NetApp FlexPod storage system is the backbone of the overhaul.

“Now that we’re part of the Epic world, that data has to be readily and rapidly available,” Lee says.

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