Published on 13-Dec-2012
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
Business Continuity, Business Resiliency, High Availability , Workload Optimized Infrastructure Framework
Consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report*, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital provides state-of-the-art care through a wide range of health care services. The 610-bed hospital based in New Brunswick, New Jersey functions as one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers and is the only Level 1 Trauma Center for Central New Jersey.
To remain competitive and ensure business continuity, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital needed to improve IT performance and implement a failover system to ensure reliable data access.
The hospital deployed IBM® Power® 740 Express® servers running IBM AIX®, IBM PowerHA® SystemMirror® for AIX, IBM System Storage® DS4300 and NTT DATA Optimum Revenue Cycle Management software.
Hospital staff and patients noticed vast performance improvements in accounts and records systems, and IT staff ensured data access by reducing failover time from several hours to five minutes.
Consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report,1 Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital provides state-of-the-art care through a wide range of health care services. The 610-bed hospital based in New Brunswick, New Jersey functions as one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers and is the only Level 1 Trauma Center for Central New Jersey. As the principal teaching hospital of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, it also provides a wide array of specialty services including cardiac care, cancer care, emergency medicine, pediatrics and maternal-fetal medicine.
Assessing performance and availability issues
One key factor contributing to the hospital’s ongoing success and recognition in the healthcare industry is its commitment to high standards for patient care. Upholding these standards and meeting patient needs requires that doctors and staff to have virtually continual access—close to 24x7—to patient accounts and records. Any potential downtime for the hospital’s numerous electronic records systems not only puts the health and lives of patients at risk, but also creates financial issues, such as requiring additional IT support services or interrupting billing functions. According to Karen Lehr, system administrator at Robert Wood Johnson, “Sometimes the challenge for healthcare is cost—what it costs for your systems to be down and what it costs to catch up when they’re back online.”
To address the potential risks of downtime and ensure the well-being of both patients and day-to-day operations, the hospital needed to focus on two pressing IT issues—system performance and failover. The hospital’s servers were not able to keep up with the demands of its systems, including patient registration, patient accounts, billing and collections.
Aside from performance problems, the biggest issue that Lehr and the hospital staff were facing was the lack of a proper failover system. This made it very difficult for the hospital to bring its servers down to perform routine tasks such as operating system upgrades or maintenance. As Lehr notes, “It was like pulling teeth sometimes just to do a simple reboot.” Without a proper failover system, the hospital faced serious risks to patient care, staff productivity and costs. In addition, the failure of a single system such as patient registration could negatively impact other systems such as electronic health records, lab systems and radiology systems. The need for an automatic failover system had become apparent to the hospital, and the management team moved to take action.
Ensuring reliable access to critical information
After evaluating its many possible options, hospital management decided to implement a high-availability solution to address its data-access requirements. As a longtime customer of IBM and IBM Business Partner NTT DATA, the hospital consulted with NTT DATA to implement a new high-availability solution. The hospital deployed two Power 740 Express servers running the AIX operating system. One server is used for production purposes and the other is used for non-production functions, application testing and failover. To ensure high availability and provide failover functionality, the hospital’s new servers include PowerHA high-availability technology. The hospital also replaced its existing disk storage system with a System Storage DS4300, which provides a storage area network to support patient registration, medical records, and lab and radiology data.
In addition to deploying new IBM solutions, the hospital implemented Optimum Revenue Cycle Management software from NTT DATA to support the hospital’s patient registration and billing systems. Designed with IBM DB2® technology, this software enables fully automated failover with minimal administrator interaction and helps to ensure near-zero downtime.
NTT DATA worked to bridge the hospital’s transition to the new solution by creating custom scripts to ensure interoperability between PowerHA and the Optimum software. The hospital also used IBM Lab Services not only to install and configure PowerHA, but also to perform a complete high-availability assessment and ensure that all of the necessary redundancy components of the solution were in place.
Improving productivity and realizing cost savings
After implementing the IBM solution, the hospital noticed considerable improvements in staff productivity and the performance of its accounts and records systems. The typical number of IT support phone calls from staff dropped significantly, helping contribute to reductions in costs. The new failover system also produced impressive results, as proved in testing. Compared to the previous manual failover method, the IBM solution enabled the failover process to complete automatically and in much less time. Regarding the improved failover speed, Lehr comments, “With IBM PowerHA, we have minimal downtime. Before, if we needed to make a hardware replacement, it took at least an hour and a half. Now, in only five minutes, failover is complete and our systems are back up and running.”
Continuing to grow with IBM
Looking to build upon the success of its new IBM solution, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital plans to replace its current disaster-recovery system with an on-site IBM solution, which would provide the hospital with more control over recovery and failover. Lehr hopes to move the non-production server offsite to one of the hospital’s other facilities and employ IBM Metro Mirror to support failover across facilities. The hospital is also considering using IBM high-availability training to learn how to take full advantage of its PowerHA capabilities.
By vastly improving its performance and failover capabilities, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital was able to ensure reliable information access, further boost staff productivity, reduce downtime and costs, improve patient experience and push its healthcare services to the next level.
For more information
For more information about IBM Premier Business Partner NTT DATA, visit: nttdata.com/americas
For more information about Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, visit: rwjuh.edu
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
Power 740 Express, Power Systems running AIX 6, Storage: DS4000
STG Lab Services: IT Optimization, STG Lab Services: Power (AIX), STG Lab Services: System Software
Footnotes and legal information
* U.S. News & World Report, “Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital,” 2012. http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/area/nj/robert-wood-johnson-university-hospital-6220920
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