News Feature | February 24, 2016

Healthcare Data In A Digital World

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Total Data Market Could Total $115 Billion By 2019

Data center options for the digital healthcare world.

It’s no secret healthcare is a data-rich environment, but much of the information is isolated in databases that lack real-time connectivity and the context of real-time events. Although this data can be interpreted as the means to eventually reduce costs and improve outcomes, most healthcare organizations are unable to leverage its power because of its sheer volume and variety. A simple workflow is necessary that can easily move data between locations and across disparate systems in a safe, secure manner and all under HIPAA compliance.

As the Gartner report How to Select the Correct Data Center Option for the Digital World notes, “These changes are leading to the development of the digital economy and forcing heads of data centers to focus on agility, innovation, and gaining a competitive advantage. However, data centers must also use the latest technologies and integrate through intelligent software layers.”

What was once a burdensome operational cost center has become a critical component in delivering quality and accurate patient care, ensuring regulatory compliance, and enabling collaboration and instruction, turning more frequently to digital solutions. Today’s stakeholder groups for data centers have shifted from facilities, IT, and security personnel to a broader range including healthcare professionals, the Chief Medical Officer, Chief of Health Information Management, and sustainability, compliance and safety managers.

“For over 40 years, data centers have pretty much been a staple of the IT ecosystem,”said Rakesh Kumar, managing vice president at Gartner. “Despite changes in technology for power and cooling, and changes in the design and build of these structures, their basic function and core requirements have, by and large, remained constant. This approach, however, is no longer appropriate for the digital world.”

According to Cisco, data center architecture for healthcare needs to meet its growing requirements, including the need for interaction between caregivers and patients to deliver immediate information even remotely; the elimination of paper and analog media and the transition to a digital environment; and a collaborative atmosphere that involves professionals in data interpretations and patient care.

Today’s healthcare providers have a host of options for data storage, including new or renovated facilities located on or off campuses, outsourcing to third-party operators, and cloud services. According to Healthcare Design’s 2014 Corporate Rankings Survey, 43 percent of architecture, engineering, and construction firms were working on data center projects in 2013, up from 37 percent in 2012.

And these projects will remain prevalent as healthcare organizations struggle to keep up with changes to compliance regulations, including HIPAA’s meaningful use requirement, which incentivizes providers to implement EHR technology to achieve improved patient care and also secure protected health information.The pressure for hospitals to increase data center capacity and availability has never been greater, thanks to federal regulation, BYOD strategies and practices, and the rise of Big Data.

Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act is bringing higher numbers of patients into the healthcare system, increasing the volume of EHRs and other information, furthering the need for strong data structures.

With the rise of the digital world and emerging technologies, the profile, topology and purpose of data centers must change dramatically from design, implementation, to operation.

“As a new digital world emerges from the dual impact of the Nexus of Forces (cloud, social, mobile and information) and the Internet of Things, the personality, structure and role of data centers will need to be changed or business agility and competitive strength will be compromised,” according to Gartner.