Vital improvements Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2009

Electronic management of patient information has become the standard for the health care industry. The overwhelming process of implementing software integration and identifying hardware requirements, all while meeting regulatory compliance, has stretched the capabilities of health care institutions’ IT staffs to their limits.

“Systems need to be carefully reviewed and analyzed, because there’s a lot of pressing requirements that are placed on these health care institutions that they have to conform to,” says Ed Kenty, president and CEO of Park Place International.

Smart Business learned more from Kenty about what is required of the health care industry and what a third-party provider can do to help navigate the maze of integration.

What are integration services?

In health care, it’s a total solution we call the Meditech platform. Meditech is a middle-market health care ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, so it’s really a software solution. Meditech is integrated with new hardware and storage and provides a full end-to-end solution to hospitals. It’s become a pretty large enterprise now, with the Obama administration and some of the funding that’s being released to these hospitals. They’re one of the few verticals that are continuing to buy new hardware and new solutions.

How does integration advance the health care industry?

A basic patient ERP application will tell patients and providers everything they need to know, from lab results and medications to diagnoses and radiology. All of these things can be integrated into a solution and move freely. The days of taking your X-rays in a big envelope to another doctor are gone. They move all of these things electronically now and in real time, which accelerates the diagnostics process.

Why is it important for health care institutions to have these systems in place?

With compliance issues, protection of patient information and disaster recovery are pressing concerns. Health care is still a very lucrative business, and there are increased requirements on hardware and software solutions to keep pace.

Today, health care organizations are implementing very advanced clinical functions. It takes them further and further away from paper — they’re going green like the rest of us. In many cases, doctors’ offices and satellite facilities and hospitals are totally paperless. And these types of solutions can support that process. It poses a lot of challenges for health care IT professionals to keep pace with this compliance; data integrity, confidence in their backups and disaster recovery strategies are all a tremendous burden for this industry to bear.

Health care institutions are turning to providers who are experienced in implementing redundant hardware solutions, virtualization programs and other forms of backup, so they can have the confidence that they can recover from a hardware failure if they should have a power surge or they can restore their data in the event of a disaster. Because it’s not like the financial vertical where you’re dealing with dollars and cents — we’re actually talking about mortality rates now.

What main obstacles do health care institutions face with integration?

Health care information systems to begin with are very complicated, in part because of the number of stakeholders involved in the decision. There are budgetary decisions that have to be made, there are performance initiatives that tie to new software, and there are regulatory factors like HIPAA and even the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). So in today’s environment, these organizations have to create a clear picture of what their capital spend budgets are, what they can buy and what they can defer to a later date.

After these implementations are done, it’s all an IT staff can do to keep their end users, their doctors — everyone associated with these complex environments — up and running across the whole enterprise. Health care institutions in really rural communities don’t have the IT staff to keep track of all this. So they need to partner with somebody that can guide them through this process. There are even large metropolitan area hospitals that will still use integration partners because they just simply don’t have the resources to take on new projects. Their dedicated IT resources are overwhelmed trying to keep pace with what’s going on in their organization, let alone taking on new projects. So whether you’re a large organization or a small rural community hospital, chances are you need an integration partner who understands all of these requirements and can understand your business and software needs before coming in to implement a solution.

How does a third-party provider help?

A third-party provider can take a 360-degree view of the needs in the data center. Some clients want to upgrade hardware to meet newer, enhanced software performance requirements in their organization. Others may need a way to preserve their capital so they can defer hardware investments. Some applications need to be refreshed and maintained. Oftentimes a blend is required. A third-party provider has the tools to evaluate the environment and offer effective solutions. Some of the offerings include server virtualization, which will mean lower heating and cooling requirements, less of a footprint in the data center, less space required, and more powerful servers, as well as post-warranty maintenance, advanced backup, SAN technology assessments and implementation.

An effective, neutral provider has the experience and certified professional resources to help implement these projects with industry-recognized best practices.

Ed Kenty is the president and CEO of Park Place International. Reach him at (800) 931-3366 or ed_kenty@parkplaceintl.com.