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Definitely healthy

Posted on 15 March 2013 by Pierre Picard

A variety of modernization measures not only improve the efficiency of IT at the Frankfurt Hoechst Hospital, they also ensure a high level of data security.

In short, it could be called “Survival of the fittest”. Because the principle of natural selection has also applied to the hospital sector for some time, with serious consequences: between 1998 and 2008 the number of hospitals in Germany fell from 2,263 to 2,083. And experts are expecting this trend to continue. Only those hospitals that can improve efficiency and nevertheless maintain the quality and safety of processes at all levels using innovative IT will remain “fit”.

Business consultants Ernst & Young reckon that since 2000 hospital costs have been increasing each year by approximately 3% and now stand at 62 billion euros per year. Hospitals are also competing increasingly for patients who are demanding ever higher standards of medical services, care and even ambience. To remain competitive in the long term, hospitals therefore naturally have to invest in buildings and personnel, but also in IT.

Studies carried out by an American IT maker recently revealed why health economics, especially IT, has been recognized as the ideal solution. The company established the benefit of mobile solutions in ten hospitals in six European countries. Hospital staff was able to access admission and treatment data on patients 90% more quickly. It was easier to find information and productivity also improved.

Overall IT fitness is important

However in large treatment centers even more important than selective improvements such as this are holistic changes that penetrate deep into the “core of the system”. The Frankfurt Hoechst Hospital was able to implement improvements with the support of the supplier Bull. In phase I – and based on a work package supervised by Bull Advisory Services, and a Five Year Roadmap – the hospital completely renewed its storage and archiving architecture. On the hardware side, Bull servers were installed, combined with an EMC storage solution (VNX/Centera). This resulted in improved energy efficiency, audit-proof long-term archiving and 99.9% availability, and led the Head of IT at the hospital, Dr Thomas Seehaus, to declare: “We can safely say that we have achieved SAN (Storage Area Network) modernization, that satisfies the highest data security requirements, complies with all risk management regulations and supports our IT strategy in a sustainable manner.”

This project is now entering phase II: in the first phase only the hospital information system was modernized, now the hospital is extending storage modernization to conventional IT, i.e. e-mail and file servers. This has enabled common data storage of databases that were usually separate in the hospital. The reason for this is that “general” IT and purely hospital IT are almost always independent due to the logically stringent IT security guidelines in hospitals. This ensures that a medical device for instance cannot be put out of action by malware. And even if the probability of such a thing occurring is not very high, the “safety first” principle applies. Conversely, this means that if this separation is lifted, the security must under no circumstances suffer – and this has been achieved in this project: improved efficiency at the same time as guaranteed performance and security.

The way the supplier, as a “trusted advisor” of the hospital, achieved this was to migrate both databases to two high-performances Bull’s bullion™ servers with Xeon E7-4800 processors and thereby replace four conventional Intel servers. The new platforms enable 75% utilization. This so-called “full-grade” server also ensures improved absorption of peak loads. Moreover, the new calculators are up to a third more powerful, and VMware license costs are lower. Also: the I/O (input-output) performance is better, communication between applications within the system optimized and RAM errors are isolated due to a hardware feature.  The storage systems installed in phase 1 were expanded at the same time. The desired side-effect of this was that the energy efficiency of the IT infrastructure of the hospital was improved by the modern server and storage architecture.

Security remains a priority

Finally, the quality of the systems and services also ensure that the “mix” of both IT domains comply with the highest availability standard. The Service Level Agreements (SLA) guaranteed by the supplier in this project are “HA999” (High Availability Services). These correspond to a SLA of 99.9%, which is ensured by special proactive methods and tools. Among other things, the continuous online analysis of the servers offers a permanent remote monitoring and a proactive maintenance service. “With this design we are in the position to rationalize our IT still further. It reduces costs, improving efficiency at the same time, but nevertheless increases availability because we cannot afford any breakdowns,” states Thomas Seehaus.

The Frankfurt Hoechst Hospital
The hospital is an institute that provides the highest levels of medical care; it is also an academic teaching hospital with 17 clinics. There are 20 specialist departments with approximately 1,000 beds – including interdisciplinary Intensive Care – as well as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (for newborn and premature babies) available for medical care. More than 33,500 inpatients and 70,000 outpatients are treated annually.  


Source : IT-Director

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