University medical center virtualizes, cuts storage needs by 65%

University of Kansas uses virtualization to create a service-oriented architecture (see video below)

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ORLANDO -- After upgrading storage systems twice in three years, Jeffrey Orndoff, IT director at the University of Kansas Physicians, earlier this year virtualized his storage and server environment in the hope that it would let departments quickly deploy new applications as services while maintaining the security of patient information.

The project let the largest multi-specialty group medical practice in Kansas reduce storage capacity requirements by 65% and cut its disk drive spending by 50% after migrating 80% of its data to less expensive, high-capacity drives.

Additionally, the medical center added automated tiered storage and thin provisioning technology to its infrastructure, allowing applications to grow storage capacity on an as-needed basis instead of overprovisioning up front.

Orndoff told attendees of Computerworld's SNW conference here that maintaining efficient IT operations for a quickly growing teaching hospital with 20 medical specialties and 1,500 to 2,000 employees is imperative. But prior to virtualizing the systems, the data center couldn't handle all the necessary patient data, research, coursework and administrative information, he added.

With the amount of data doubling about every year, Orndoff had already gone through two models of Hewlett-Packard's StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) -- the 4000 and 6000 - in 36 months. While the hospital still uses the HP systems, it has added a more modular Dell Compellent Storage Center SAN installed with the help of Copilot Consult's migration service.

At the same time, the medical center also virtualized about 45 of its 50 physical servers using VMware's hypervisor technology, and rolled out a beta virtual desktop environment with about 20 of his 2,000 workstations. The university as a whole has 10,000 stations, Orndoff said.

The hospital also rolled out EPIC's electronic medical record (EMR) system and GE's Centricity Advantage for billing, Orndoff said.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a hospital proving that its EMR is being meaningfully used can receive about $4 million in reimbursements, though the largest operations can receive as much as $12 million.

Orndoff didn't put a number to the amount his facility received, but said the funds didn't come close to covering the investment. Experts say that the cost of most EMRs will exceed the government's incentive money by two to three times.

The biggest payback with the EMR, currently used by about 40% of the group's 500-plus doctors, was the ability to mostly eliminate the need for medical transcription services. Physicians using the EPIC system now enter notes directly into the EMR.

Computerworld's Lucas Mearian interviews Jeff Orndoff, Director of IT at the University of Kansas Physicials while at SNW Fall 2011 in Orlando.

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