As technology and healthcare become more intertwined, a robust, effective and cost-efficient IT infrastructure is more important than ever when it comes to providing reliable and secure patient care.
Because the data center upgrades necessary to keep up with expanding IT can be difficult and costly to make, many healthcare organizations are turning to hyperconverged infrastructure as a way to meet growing needs while simplifying data center management and keeping costs in check.
What Is Hyperconverged Infrastructure?
In a nutshell, HCI is a software-defined infrastructure that virtualizes typical data center hardware elements. As CDW’s Mike Grisamore notes in a post on BizTech, the term “hyperconvergence” comes from a combination of the words hypervisor and convergence.
“Hyperconvergence tightly integrates compute, storage, networking and virtualization into a single box managed through a common interface,” Grisamore explains. “These flexible building blocks replace the legacy infrastructure stacks of servers, storage arrays and storage networks.”
The Benefits of Hyperconverged Infrastructure for Patient Care
Placing this virtualized infrastructure at the forefront of a healthcare organization’s data center strategy can improve agility, flexibility and scalability, all while reducing the cost and complexity of underlying IT.
Notably, it’s not just healthcare IT teams that can benefit from HCI, but patients and providers as well who see marked improvements from the tech’s adoption.
At Lewisville, Texas-based StoneGate Senior Living, for example, the organization chose to replace its aging data center with an HCI appliance used in concert with hybrid cloud. The decision not only stabilized StoneGate’s underlying IT infrastructure while building out storage and compute capabilities but also laid a foundation that allowed the organization to pursue care improvements.
“Because of these new technologies we were able to deploy analytics on a population of patients, which give us answers within a day that we used to have to wait a quarter for,” Brandon Jackson, vice president of financial and business intelligence at StoneGate Senior Living, tells HealthTech. Without HCI, he says, it would have been nearly impossible to scale the data ingestion and processing necessary to do so.
With HCI, however, the senior care facility was able to create a new service line that allows both internal teams and external clients to observe quality metrics. As a result, “reduction of anti-psychotic medications, reductions in falls with major injury, all of them went down across the board,” says Jackson.
Healthcare Staff See Workflow Improvements from HCI
For healthcare teams, the efficiencies provided by HCI are key. Southern New Hampshire Health, for example, turned to HCI to virtualize its mobile and wireless desktops for hospital staff. Equipped with a virtualized environment, the organization was able to deploy a single sign-on solution that allows staff to simply “tap their badge on the cart, get logged in to the medical applications they use, and start doing their job,” Desktop Configuration Engineer Scot Tymowicz tells HITInfrastructure.com.
While it might seem small, the ability to simplify sign-on has allowed clinicians to stop fiddling with computers and focus more on patients.
“If they’re in the room with a patient doing their job, and there’s an emergency and they have to leave that room, they can quickly wave their badge over the computer to lock it and secure it. Clinicians are no longer tasked with launching and logging in to applications,” Tymowicz notes.
Care Organizations Seek Storage Improvements via HCI
While there are many reasons to adopt HCI, the tipping point for many healthcare organizations is the storage improvement it offers over traditional data center solutions. When storage and memory were at capacity for St. John’s Riverside Hospital, for example, the organization turned to HCI. The result was a massive performance boost.
“I knew we had a 50 percent performance increase, but hearing it from my users made it real,” Nelson Carreira, director of servers and desktops, information services and technology at the hospital, tells HealthTech. “Going to a hyperconverged infrastructure gave us more storage, more compute, data deduplication, compression, backup and disaster recovery strategies all built into one. All that made hyperconverged very, very appealing for us.”
At the Keck Medicine hospital system at the University of Southern California, HCI adoption helped unite disparate storage systems and virtualize the organization’s environment.
“We had 14 different storage solutions,” said Infrastructure Director Scott Voigts, speaking at an event about Keck Medicine’s experience with HCI. The organization also had several server technologies and private branch exchange systems. The move to HCI allowed Keck to unite all disparate systems, simplify storage and ultimately become a more nimble and secure organization.