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Going beyond disaster recovery

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   By Nick Heuberger, February 2012

H02_HIS_API Healthcare_Nick_Heuberger_El_Centro_90x123Don’t wait for an earthquake to set up remote-hosting options.

CFOs are challenged with finding ways to more effectively forecast and manage IT costs. CIOs are challenged to keep up with increasing demand for limited IT resources. Compounding these issues is the constantly looming threat of disaster, both natural and man-made. It can take days to recover from an event as small as the failure of a single physical server. Recovery from a more large-scale event can take weeks or even months.

With our location in southeast California, El Centro Regional Medical Center (ECRMC) had to face all of these challenges. In addition to maintaining fiscal responsibility while still providing the necessary IT services with a limited staff, our hospital felt the direct impact of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in April 2010. Our data center was significantly damaged, and the building was condemned. In addition to re-locating employees and departments throughout our community, we also needed to move our servers into a mobile data center. It took us months to get everything recovered and migrated successfully.

Following on the heels of that natural disaster, we re-evaluated our options regarding system maintenance and hosting. Our workforce-management vendor presented us with a managed-services and remote-hosting option. Although at first we were leery about remote-hosting options because workforce management is so critical to our organization’s operations, we’ve now embraced remote-hosting technology. In fact, we now utilize remote-hosting options for our inpatient and outpatient EMRs as well. Being in an earthquake zone is one factor that has made remote hosting a viable option for us, but it’s not the main reason we use remote hosting and managed services for our workforce-management solutions.

Almost three years ago, we began the implementation of our time/attendance and staffing/scheduling solutions. With those solutions, we did our own database administration and system update installations. Within the last year, we’ve added the human resources and payroll solution from the same vendor to our workforce-management suite. While the integrated solution gives us better accessibility to our personnel and labor data, we began skipping non-critical system maintenance because our IT staff had so many demands on their time. So we re-evaluated our options for completing routine system and database maintenance, and we decided to use the remote-hosting and managed services options that our vendor offered.

We’ve been live with the remote-hosting and managed services since the beginning of 2011, and our hospital has realized the following tangible benefits:

Fewer IT resources: Our IT staff needs to be lean, but now we can spend more time working on core functions, such as building the system, rather than worrying about database maintenance and system updates. That’s been a huge relief for us. We’re also pleased to eliminate the need for server and other hardware updates, which saves us both time and money. We don’t need to add staff to manage the database and make system updates, which means we’ve realized a strong return on our investment. In addition to this workforce-management technology project, we’ve also begun the implementation of a new CIS vendor, an outpatient EMR and a new patient financials/patient access implementation. These projects have had a dramatic effect on the staffing needs. It was a huge benefit for ECRMC to move to the remote-hosted/managed services in order to free up hardware and infrastructure support staff to focus on these new projects.  

Optimized system performance: Now, our staff spends less time with system troubleshooting, and we’ve been able to enjoy faster issue resolution. Because our vendor has a team of technical and solution experts supporting our system, they can quickly pinpoint and resolve any performance issues. Scheduled system downtime happens when it’s convenient for us, minimizing any interruptions for our system users. Our managed services also include the automated delivery of key reports. For example, we receive a system usage report that is reviewed by our administrative team each month.

While the earthquake was certainly a challenging event for our organization, it opened the door to remote-hosting options for us. At ECRMC, we’ve had a very positive experience with remote-hosting and managed services. We’ve found that the cost of the monthly fee is offset by the time, money and resources we’re saving. It has been a winning solution for our IT team.                               

Nick Heuberger is applications project manager, El Centro Regional Medical center. For more on API Healthcare, visit here.

 

 



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