How Data Center Colocation Can Improve Healthcare IT

Topics: Data Center Management

Through early detection, new drugs, new procedures and new treatment regimens, modern medicine is achieving many breakthroughs that could only have been dreamed about in the past. And there is more to come. The confluence of wearable health devices, social media and big data analytics has the potential to reshape medical treatment even further.

One of the most important, yet sometimes overlooked, factors in the advancement of modern medical treatment is the underlying health IT infrastructure. Health IT—specifically electronic health records (EHR)—improves the quality of healthcare delivery, decreases medical errors and strengthens the interaction between patients and healthcare providers.

IT professionals in healthcare have a unique opportunity to improve the quality of care and positively impact the experience of patients by deploying EHR systems that are reliable, robust and ready to meet the changing needs of their organizations. At the same time, however, IT healthcare is under extreme pressure to keep costs under control, address regulatory compliance challenges, deal with significant data growth and deploy new technology solutions that are changing the paradigm in data center operations and management.

For many IT healthcare leaders, the answer to addressing these complex challenges is to work with a colocation provider to outsource their data center operations. By working with the right data center colocation provider, healthcare IT professionals can reduce costs, improve productivity, strengthen compliance preparedness and develop a more strategic and coordinated approach to delivering IT services.

As EHR systems become more widely used by clinicians, and as new opportunities such as mobile and big data become readily available, it is more important than ever that healthcare organizations address critical IT challenges, including:

  • Skyrocketing data growth: Every healthcare organization is dealing with significant growth in information—not just in sheer capacity, but also in the increase in different data types and applications. Data growth will likely require investment in new systems and new technologies on an ongoing basis, impacting the IT budgets of IT healthcare providers, as well as data center capacity requirements.
  • Improving the quality of care: Meaningful use, ICD-10 and Accountable Care contribute to improved patient care by using data to predict disease and prevent illness, but they also put added pressure on the IT infrastructure to effectively manage more and more information throughout its lifecycle.
  • Industry consolidation: We are continuing to see consolidation across the healthcare industry. With consolidation, healthcare IT teams inherit data centers with disparate systems, technologies and processes. This typically requires the installation of new technologies and processes to develop consistent approaches to information management, governance and compliance.
  • Information management and governance: A distributed approach to information management and governance means that critical healthcare information and medical records are often being stored in multiple formats, across multiple data centers with multiple applications and various vendors to manage. IT has to get this under control or face additional risks in security, compliance and quality of patient care.
  • Deploying new technologies: healthcare IT organizations have major decisions to make about investments in new architectures such as software-defined networks and converged infrastructures. New technologies are critical to delivering the performance, agility, cost-efficiencies, reliability and security needed for today’s more sophisticated environments—all to support the speed and accuracy of patient care, while reducing mistakes and improving patient interaction.

The inefficiencies of the distributed model in use at most healthcare facilities prevent a comprehensive view of patients’ health records, which can have a negative impact on the organization’s ability to deliver quality care and achieve the proper levels of information governance.

A diffuse, decentralized and uncoordinated approach also makes it difficult to find information and ensure that it is current and accurate—which puts the organization at legal and audit risk, while also increasing the possibility of a privacy or security breach.

Faced with these challenges, many healthcare IT leaders are considering outsourced data center colocation providers for solutions. While approximately 70% of data center capacity is managed in-house today, the tide is shifting and data center colocation is growing. Among the reasons:

  • Data center management is not a core competency at most healthcare facilities;
  • Data centers are very expensive to run and manage, and healthcare organizations are under pressure to reduce spending;
  • Hiring and retaining the proper expertise among IT is growing more challenging, particularly as data center technology keeps changing and advancing;
  • Healthcare facilities are finding that they can reduce total cost of ownership by working with a data center co-location provider—while also delivering important efficiencies in energy usage.

Healthcare IT leaders are increasingly comfortable with leading outsourcing vendors in the data center colocation market, such as Iron Mountain. Healthcare organizations have trusted Iron Mountain to protect medical records in secure and compliant facilities. They can also rely on the same robust services for data center colocation.

Healthcare IT can also benefit from a services-oriented approach to data center colocation, with solutions and expertise that are much more comprehensive than what has been offered in the past. The types of services now available in data center colocation include a wide array of solutions to support improvements in management and operations, including: migration services; installation and smart remote hands; asset tracking; asset disposition; disaster recovery, and offsite tape vaulting, to name just a few.

In looking at the various challenges facing healthcare IT professionals today and in the future, it can seem a bit overwhelming. However, working with a savvy and experienced data center colocation partner will ease some of the pressure and enable the IT organization to rely on the expertise and experience of a team that understands its challenges and knows how to address them.