Internal Cloud Manages Health Records

By Bob Violino Print this article Print

A big medical center builds its own cloud to manage electronic health records.

See also: Best Practices slideshow.

Providing secure, electronic health records (EHR) is becoming a priority for health-care institutions. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston is taking an innovative approach to the challenge, deploying virtualization to transform its EHR data center into an internal cloud that allows the facility to deliver a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution for electronic records to more than 200 private physician practices throughout Massachusetts.

Beth Israel Deaconess is a teaching hospital that treats more than 250,000 patients a year. It operates the Beth Israel Deaconess Physician Organization (BIDPO), which provides a variety of services, including electronic health records, to support hundreds of independently owned member physician practices.

Officials at the medical center knew that more than 200 private practices located throughout eastern Massachusetts were eligible to take part in the BIDPO EHR initiative. “Each of those practices is a separate business entity. From a design standpoint, we knew that meant each practice required its own database,” says Bill Gillis, manager of clinical application services at Beth Israel Deaconess.

The medical center’s options where to create a distributed client/server model with servers located at each practice, or a centrally hosted model with all key components housed and maintained in a single location, Gillis says. Officials determined that a hosted model was the best choice.

“Once we made that decision it came down to scalability,” Gillis says. “While we had 200-plus eligible practices, we didn't know how many would actually decide to take part.” The concern was that the medical center would build the EHR capability at great expense, and only a few practices would sign up.

“We knew we needed a SaaS model that would give us the ability to grow and expand, as needed,” Gillis says. “Something extremely flexible and dynamic, able to grow and adapt on demand. Basically we could have built a big grand hotel, only to have a few guests ever check in. [What] we needed was a housing development where we can build the houses at will.”

In order to achieve its goals, the medical center turned to server virtualization, deploying the VMware platform from VMware Inc. Virtualization would enable the medical center to minimize hardware requirements, effectively manage server capacity and provide the agility needed for future growth.

This article was originally published on 2009-06-08
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