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We wouldn’t call it an epidemic but there’s a growing number of hospital CIOs across America opening their medicine cabinets today in search of an aspirin.  They committed their organizations to implement EpicCare EMR software, hired dozens of consultants, spent a hundred million (if not hundreds of millions of) dollars, and their phone is ringing off the hook.  Doctors, nurses, and even IT administrators are complaining.  “Epic’s great but we’re running out of storage.”  “The network speed has slowed to a crawl.”  “Our disaster recovery program needs to be upgraded.” The installation of EPIC software has created unprecedented demands on IT infrastructure.  Unfortunately Epic only gives you a list of “requirements” and leaves the rest for an IT organization to figure out.  Those requirements relating to storage capacity and latency, network access and latency, and overall server performance, are considerable, and likely to be more demanding than any of an organization’s current platforms.

“Unless these demands are accounted for and met, overall deployment of Epic will be in jeopardy,” says VertitechIT CEO Michael Feld.  Mike also serves as the CTO for Lancaster General Hospital, which recently achieved Stage 7 of EMR adoption as measured by HIMSS.  LGH is ranked in the top 3% nationwide and is the first full-service hospital in Pennsylvania to receive the commendation.

Mike offers up a bullet list of items every CIO and healthcare IT department should consider.

  • The client side of Epic requires changes and upgrades of the many PCs, laptops, e-carts and other end-point devices. Epic’s Hyperspace client integrates with and makes many calls to, other applications such as PACS, dictation, and telemetry. This creates complex configurations that need to be properly managed.
  • Desktop virtualization should be considered as it is a critical technology that, when implemented for Epic, may considerably lower overall operational costs and significantly simplify device management.
  • Storage capacity and access speeds (low latency) are critical for proper performance of Epic. Often existing SANS will need substantial upgrades or replacement in order to conform to Epic requirements.
  • Network access is also important because Epic and its many associated applications and linkages are in an “always on” condition. When an institution fully deploys Epic, nearly all of their operations are controlled by this platform. When network issues interrupt clinical and administrative operations, the organization suffers considerably.
  • DR/HA (Disaster Recovery/High Availability) will need to meet the nearly continuous operations that Epic expects. Upgrading DR/HA elements represent considerable CAPEX and OPEX.

Mike calls these “below the line” issues in that most institutions will spend the majority of their time/money (and rightly so), focused on EPIC software integration.  But it’s these hidden concerns that are causing the headaches.  Aspirin anyone?