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Recently, we came across a hospital CIO who told us he’s feeling a little like Dr. Frankenstein right now. When his department isn’t knee-deep in putting out fires he says, they’re busy launching a seemingly endless number of science experiments; finding a new PACS platform, exploring single sign-on options, or wading into the ever expanding world of VDI. 

IT management is always in search of a tactical breakthrough to meet a strategic vision. Unfortunately, the majority of these experiments lack a theme or an overall approach to uniting their initiatives.  And like the good Dr. Frankenstein who obsessed about the meaning of life, these seemingly unrelated efforts are leading CIOs to question the results of their labors.

In Search of an End State

Seeing the forest through the trees appears to be a major challenge for healthcare IT and that may be because so many experiments are initiated without a proper end state in mind.  The successful implementation of many individual initiatives is not an end state. Disproving the ability of a certain application to meet a particular need is not an end state either. We believe that every IT department can essentially adopt the same end state goal.

All of our efforts are aimed at implementing technologies that create an environment where clinicians can spend more time with patients, more time teaching, or more time in research.

Such a statement may seem obvious to some but if used as a uniting element for science experiments, it will result in synergies, in cost savings, and ultimately, a better, more united work environment.

Trends

We’re hearing a couple of common stories in our work with major healthcare systems across the country.

  • CIOs are being told by CEOs (and chief medical officers) that doctors will embrace technology if it allows them to spend more time with patients or improve the processes for treatment.
  • IT departments must anticipate (not just react and put in place) the infrastructure needed to implement those technologies.

It all comes back to creating the proper end state with buy-in from inside and outside the IT department.

A Common Science Experiment

Without a doubt, the technologies around hyper-convergence are driving the majority of healthcare IT initiatives.  The desire to converge storage, networking , and compute into a single host-based element is the “experiment du jour” but those without a clearly defined end state seem to be approaching hyper-convergence from a myopic,  “non-converged” mindset.

  • Most have adopted some form of basic virtualization (going from hundreds of servers for different applications to groups of hosts running software like VMware’s ESX). The next step…..“I’m going to try NSX because I want to micro-segment security.”
  • Many are testing different storage options like VSAN, Nutanix, or Pure Storage saying things like,  “I’m going to go from my old EMC storage to Nutanix because it saves money.”
  • The majority are still not looking at software-defined elements because of a lack of knowledge or experience about all of the components that make up hyper-convergence (a result of years of siloed operation where those parts were kept separate).

The result is that experiments centered on hyper-convergence may solve a particular problem but they don’t realize the true cost, scalability, and disaster recovery benefits of a more holistic view. In short, independent hyper-convergence experiments will remain separate unless storage, network, and compute are looked at together as a unified method of achieving an end state solution.

Today’s Healthcare IT Consultant

Our role is changing. Today’s healthcare IT consultants are not just the technology gurus of the past. We need to be a unifying influence and serve to reign in the well-intentioned but disparate science experiments going on in hospital IT departments across the country. Our clients will always want to know that “we’ve been there and done that,” but they’re really in need of someone with that wide angle lens and the ability to bring seemingly wide ranging initiatives together.

Healthcare CIOs and senior level leadership are anxious to realize the benefits that technologies like hyper-convergence can bring to their institutions but like Dr. Frankenstein, they get fearful when realizing what their experiments have produced.  Today’s healthcare IT consultants can provide the antidote through experience and clear end state direction.