Next, the department tackled IT infrastructure, consolidating its two production data centers into one. Faxton-St. Luke had a state-of-the-art data center with available server and storage capacity, as well as power and cooling resources. IT staff migrated virtualized applications and data from St. Elizabeth to Faxton-St. Luke’s data center, which runs on Hewlett Packard Enterprise3PAR blade servers and storage hardware.
“The St. Elizabeth site was under-resourced, so it made sense to migrate its applications and data to Faxton-St. Luke,” Hildreth said.
The IT team interrupted Faxton-St. Luke and moved its HPE data center equipment to the St. Elizabeth data center to serve as the new backup data center for the merged health system.
When it comes to software, both hospitals were using some of the same apps, so the newly combined health system consolidated its vmware, Citrix and Microsoft licenses under one contract for each vendor, which saved money, says Hildreth.
Security Standardization for Healthcare IT Integrations
While consolidating hardware and software, Hildreth and her team also focused on strengthening security. The IT staff brought St. Elizabeth to Faxton-St. to Luke’s security standards by installing a demilitarized zone on the St. Elizabeth network and upgrading to Palo Alto Networks next-generation firewall.
Each hospital used different anti-virus software for computers, so the MVHS standardized Trend Microendpoint security software. IT staff also implemented single sign-on, which allowed clinicians to use their employee badges to automatically log in and out of electronic health record (EHR) systems while on their rounds, he says. .
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Tackling the integration of electronic health records
For the first five years following the merger, the two hospitals each continued to operate two separate EHR systems: one for inpatient care and one for outpatient care. That was four EHRs that IT staff had to manage on a regular basis. “It was a real nightmare to maintain,” says Hildreth.
The bulk of the IT integration work was completed about two or three years after the merger. But Hildreth and her team wanted to ensure that the IT infrastructure and their integration efforts were stable before standardizing on a single EHR.
Finally, in 2019, IT admins were ready to tackle EHR consolidation. They explored their options and standardized on Epic. Instead of incurring the upfront expense of purchasing additional servers and storage to power the new DSE, they opted for a more cost-effective option and adopted HPE GreenLake Services, using HPE hardware on-premises and paying through a monthly subscription model.
HPE determined MVHS’ EHR hardware requirements based on its number of hospital beds and ambulatory departments and installed HPE Synergy infrastructure and 3PAR StoreServ all-flash storage arrays in Faxton-St. Luke’s data center. HPE has pre-provisioned additional capacity so that MVHS can scale up or down server and storage capacity as needed. The provider also performs ongoing maintenance and firmware updates and only charges for capacity used each month.
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“HPE GreenLake is really great. They only charge us for what we use, and they help us fix hardware and keep firmware up to date. It saves us a lot of time,” says Hildreth.
MVHS went live with Epic in the summer of 2019. Clinicians benefit from an improved workflow and have all of their patient records in one place. Patients can access their records, lab results, and renew prescriptions through an online portal.
IT staff only need to maintain one EHR. “It’s much more streamlined now,” says Hildreth.
Future merger integration plans
Although the IT department has successfully merged its infrastructure and software, the healthcare system continues to integrate operations. MVHS is building a new regional medical center that will replace the two existing hospitals. When the new medical center opens in the fall of 2023, staff from both hospitals will work under a roof. Indeed, at the beginning of 2021, MVHS began merging medical staff members of his two hospitals into a unified group.
In the meantime, Hildreth and her IT team continue to make IT improvements and find areas to streamline operations. In 2020, MVHS further bolstered security by subscribing to next-generation, cloud-based endpoint security software that analyzes behavior to detect suspicious activity and block zero-day attacks.
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From 2020 to 2021, MVHS consolidated its existing third-party cardiology apps. Health System is now implementing additional Epic modules to reduce reliance on third-party apps: Work has begun to replace a legacy lab system with Epic’s Beaker lab app, and the adoption of the Epic’s Cupid cardiology app is generating interest.
Medical staff at MVHS will unite at a new regional hospital next year, but the IT department has already provided them with the integrated technology tools they need to operate seamlessly as one team, says Hildreth.
Overall, his department’s multi-year effort to integrate IT operations has been successful, he adds, “It worked really well.”