Providers Realize Cost and Efficiency Benefits with GNAX Health Data Centers

Ever watch "Cousins on Call", "Design on a Dime", "Kitchen Impossible" or any one of the other popular do-it-yourself (DIY) shows on cable television? The designers and handymen always seem to get stellar results, while making the whole process look relatively fun. Sometimes, though, when the typical homeowner tries to replicate the DIY magic, not much gets done while a lot of money goes down the proverbial drain.

With the explosive growth of electronic data, many healthcare IT leaders are balancing the pros and cons of taking a DIY approach or handing the job off to the professionals as they seek to build and manage data centers. Even though taking a DIY approach is a viable option, like the well-intentioned homeowner, healthcare professionals might encounter some hard-to-manage challenges when taking this route.

To start, the pressure to successfully build and manage a data center is greater than ever before. Indeed, a provider’s infrastructure now needs to support a growing array of patient-critical technologies such as electronic health records, digital imaging, and more. In such environments, if clinicians cannot access data from the electronic record due to even a brief outage, patient outcomes could suffer dramatically.

As such, providers can no longer simply put all of their data in one basket. Instead, most providers are managing multiple data centers to ensure business continuity.    

At the same time, health organizations need to cope with an array of regulatory concerns. For example, starting September 23, 2013, organizations need to comply with the more stringent HIPAA privacy, security, breach notification and enforcement rules that were published in the Federal Register on January 25, 2013.

Perhaps the most difficult hurdle, however, lies in assessing how big of a data “house” to build. 

“It is very difficult to predict data storage needs with the tsunami of data that the healthcare industry is experiencing,” says William Souder, Vice President of Engineering and Online Solutions at GNAX Health, an Atlanta-based healthcare technology infrastructure and application delivery service provider offering mission-critical datacenter colocation, managed application delivery and backup & disaster recovery services. “Many hospitals try to build their own data center and it is either half empty or not nearly big enough to handle all of the hospital’s data needs. So, it turns into a nightmare. They either spend a lot of money and pay for capacity that they don’t really need or they have to haphazardly build upon the original data center.”

Overwhelmed by these challenges, some providers are handing their data centers off to the professionals through colocation agreements. Such arrangements enable hospitals to tap into an off-site data center where equipment, space and bandwidth is leased on an as-needed basis.

Instead of trying to forecast how much space they might need, these providers simply pay for what they use. In addition, the payments – similar to a lease – can be counted as a business expense and, in most cases, provide a greater tax benefit than the amortization of onsite data center equipment investments.

Before handing their data centers off to a colocation vendor, though, leaders at both Emory Healthcare, Atlanta, and Piedmont Healthcare, Atlanta, realized that they needed to choose a partner that could handle all of the unique demands associated with health data.

Both providers choose to work with GNAX because of the company’s:

Stellar compliance with standards. GNAX stays on top of current and emerging standards. For example, in addition to offering compliance with all HIPAA security standards for a data center, GNAX is NFPA 110 compliant, meaning that the colocation center tests its generators under a facility load each month.  While this is not a HIPAA requirement, it is a Joint Commission requirement.

Health care experience.  GNAX provided stellar references illustrating its ability to serve health care clients. In fact, GNAX has worked with many health care organizations for five years and more.

Audit results. In addition to references, GNAX was able to provide specific HIPAA and SSAE results – illustrating the value that colocation services can bring to healthcare organizations. For example, GNAX provides physical and user access reports to clients as a requirement of HIPAA.

With these qualifications making GNAX the preferred colocation choice, Piedmont Healthcare handed its production environment to GNAX while the hospital is operating its own backup/disaster recovery site. And, Emory is operating its own production environment while using GNAX’s data center as a disaster recovery site and GNAX’s managed cloud services to host some of its healthcare applications.

Working with GNAX has enabled both organizations to achieve results. For example, Emory has been able to:

  • Reduce bandwidth costs by 50%.
  • More accurately predict hardware and server needs, reducing its annual budget by about 30%.
  • Cut storage costs. For example, Emory is saving 60% in recurring costs on a monthly basis by hosting one cardiology imaging application in a private healthcare cloud.

Perhaps, best of all, though, the move to a cloud based storage solution enables Emory IT professionals to work more strategically.

“I’ve actually taken work off of my technical team, who was previously having to work on setting up servers and getting the hardware connected appropriately with the network and making sure all the security safeguards were in place, as well as loading the applications, and of course with that comes a lot of licensing expenses,” Cantrell says. “Now, instead of doing that, we actually have our technical resources really focused more on going out and working with our customers, looking at strategy for new solutions, and working on implementing new things” says Dee Cantrell, CIO of Emory.