Feb 23 2021

How Hyperconvergence Supports the Demands of COVID-19 Reporting

Vaccine-related data requirements add complexity to healthcare organizations’ IT infrastructure needs.

When it comes to flu shots, patients are used to lining up wherever vaccines are offered, and providers will take patients at their word that they’ve received their shot.

COVID-19 vaccines, of course, are much different. The unique nature of the pandemic vaccination process presents several challenges, including inventory management, data reporting and follow-up appointment scheduling.

As hospitals and health systems seek to overcome these — while simultaneously maintaining or resuming normal operations — many are encountering immediate but acute IT network and infrastructure needs.

“You have to collect new data and report on your activity every day. You’re competing with revenue cycle, human resources and electronic health record [EHR] systems,” said Cheryl Rodenfels, Americas healthcare CTA at enterprise cloud vendor Nutanix. “Before, everything had its time and place. Now, there’s increased data pumping through the environment, and you’re hitting all your processors at the same time.”

Rigorous, unprecedented data reporting requirements for COVID-19 vaccine administration are putting hospital IT infrastructure to the test. Hospitals that have upgraded to hyperconverged infrastructure have a head start on managing the new abundance of data processing and network traffic.

Hospitals Are Sending More Data to More Entities, More Often

Data reporting for the COVID-19 vaccine is challenging for several reasons, said Rodenfels, a former hospital CIO and CTO:

  • Hospitals typically report on pharmacy inventory on a weekly or monthly basis.
  • Data must be reported to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, state (and sometimes county and municipal) entities and the vaccine manufacturers.
  • Reports include several data fields not typically part of pharmaceutical reporting, such as a date of the administration of a second dose.
  • Offsite vaccination clinics are likely to use different appointment scheduling and EHR systems than the hub hospital.
  • Data sets must be anonymized before being sent.
  • Hospitals need to be able to verify that patients have received both doses and to share this information with patients in a manner that is both secure and timely.
  • Unlike existing regulatory reporting requirements, the processes for COVID-19 vaccination reporting don’t include detailed instructions.

“Data is going to several different places on a daily basis — and then you need to multiply that by the number of unique reporting requirements,” Rodenfels said. “You have to expand capacity.”

RELATED: Hyperconvergence is a fit for organizations of all sizes.

New IT Infrastructure Can Support Vaccine Reporting Requirements

In November 2020, Nutanix released its third annual Enterprise Cloud Index report, which found that more than two-thirds of healthcare organizations were taking a more strategic view of IT as a result of COVID-19. One of the ways they’re doing that is by retiring legacy on-premises data infrastructure and replacing it with a hyperconverged infrastructure that combines storage, computing and networking in a single system.

As healthcare organizations seek to align IT infrastructure with the needs of new data reporting requirements, Rodenfels offered four factors to consider:

Data locality enables data to be processed where it is stored, instead of sending it to a physical data center for processing. This reduces bottlenecks related to collecting and running the information, which in turn reduces the inefficiency of daily reporting at offsite vaccination clinics.

Redundancy supports the fast addition of compute and storage nodes. Organizations can use this to accommodate virtual desktops for employees working remotely, whether at vaccination clinics or in offices set up away from the hospital for social distancing.

Virtual desktop infrastructure relies on local connections to access services. This reduces traffic on the main network in order to support mission-critical applications within the hospital, such as ICU remote patient monitoring.

Enterprise cloud deployed in a hyperconverged infrastructure allows organizations to provision infrastructure within hours, because configuration and integration do not need to be repeated for each new cloud instance. That means IT staff can get additional resources up and running quickly, with little administrative overhead.

“You need reliability, flexibility and availability,” said Rodenfels.

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