Ensuring Uninterrupted Care

By David S. Finn  |  Posted 2008-06-26 Print this article Print

Vice President and CIO David Finn of Houston-based Texas Children’s Hospital discusses how his IT team ensure the availability, security and privacy of the hospital’s information.

Ensuring Uninterrupted Care

We are currently completing Texas Children’s Hospital’s largest software implementation to date, thanks in large part to the collaborative efforts of a wide range of stakeholders and partners. At the center of the initiative is Epic Systems’ software, a massive system that’s used by almost everyone in the hospital network. In fact, by the end of 2010 or 2011, we will have approximately 10,000 users on this system.

Epic applications help create continuity of care by unifying, simplifying and supporting communication among systems, processes and people. They provide an enterprise clinical/financial data repository, a health care data management system, an enterprise master person index, scheduling, registration and more.

Needless to say, this system cannot ever be down.

To ensure high availability for this critical system, even as we added more facilities as part of the hospital’s $1.5 billion expansion project, we realized we would have to change our approach. Rather than providing high availability for just a single data center, we would require it at multiple data centers across our campus.

We weren’t experts in finding and implementing such technologies, so we looked to various partners. Collaborating with our hardware partner provided some direction, but ultimately, we realized that the importance of this implementation was so great that we needed to bring in more experienced personnel.

Consequently, we turned to Symantec Consulting Services to develop a cross-network solution based on the Veritas Storage Foundation and Veritas Cluster Server, which ensure maximum uptime and availability of our Epic applications. We worked with these consultants as a team dedicated to serving the needs of Texas Children’s Hospital, and I cannot overstate how critical this teamwork was to the overall success of the implementation.

These collaborative efforts were so rewarding that we also extended high availability to our full suite of mission-critical Oracle PeopleSoft applications—from supply chain to human capital management and financial management. Now we are confident that both our Epic and PeopleSoft applications will remain up and running.

Does the solution work? Yes, we’ve seen it put to the test over the past year. With all the construction going on across our campus, we had two instances about two weeks apart in which the primary server for our current ambulatory medical record system, GE’s Centricity, lost power and went down.

Our high-availability solution proved itself by automatically failing over to a secondary server. In fact, the transition was seamless, so our physicians, clinicians and others using the system were not even aware of the problem. It’s a good thing, too, since it costs approximately $1 million every half-day if one of our Clinical Care Center systems is down and, more important, it can disrupt patient care.

In addition to improving the reliability of these applications, Symantec consultants and solutions also helped Texas Children’s increase the efficiency of our IT team and simplify storage management. We had already been using Veritas NetBackup for our Microsoft Windows servers, and we decided to extend it to our Unix environment. By doing so, we doubled our backup volume without adding IT administrators—which translates to a savings of more than $1.5 million in labor cost avoidance over a three-year period.

We expect to see additional labor cost savings over that same period, thanks to the more efficient backup-and-restore capabilities in our PeopleSoft environment. By increasing the availability of our PeopleSoft modules, we will likely see significant labor productivity gains as well during the next three years. And, because our high-availability implementation enables intelligent failover, we can maximize our current server investments and avoid millions of dollars in new hardware acquisitions.

Vice President and CIO of Houston-based Texas Children’s Hospital David Finn.

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