Lisa Huff is a contributing editor for Data Center Knowledge. She is Chief Technology Analyst for DataCenterStocks.com and Principal Analyst at Discerning Analytics.
While everyone in the data center industry follows the new Internet Data Centers (IDCs) built by Google’and Facebook, there are really only a handful of these in the world. While being a supplier to these companies is a great opportunity, it can also be too demanding and take your products in directions that are very custom – like containerized data centers.
On the other hand, there are many medium-to-large (and even some small) data centers being built in other vertical markets that are taking more standard approaches and present much larger markets for data center equipment and components suppliers. One of these is the healthcare industry.
Stimulus Funding Available for EHR
Unless you’re in the healthcare industry or you serve it in some way, you probably don’t realize that there is a substantial amount of money ($19 billion) that is obtainable from the federal government under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). This funding is set aside as incentives for healthcare organizations to develop the capability for Electronic Health Records (EHR).
Most of us have experienced the reality that our doctor’s offices are still on paper and fax systems even after HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was supposed to start the process of going paperless. The new funding has actually started to help accelerate the process, prompting many doctors to take the first step to EHRs by using e-prescriptions.
In the healthcare industry there are many disparate organizations that must come together in order to get to a true EHR that can be used by all doctors nationwide. Right now, most medical information is not structured data, which is essential for all of these different computer systems to talk to each other. And, there must be some kind of centralized storage or "Health Information Exchange," which in and of itself is a large data center (with backups and disaster recovery sites). In Pennsylvania, this is going to be the PHIX (Pennsylvania Healthcare Information Exchange) and on the federal level it would be NHIN (Nationwide Healthcare Information Network), although this name is expected to change soon.
By 2015, all healthcare organizations are supposed to have implemented EHRs. The US Dept. of Health and Human Services has set forth milestones along the way:
- 2011 Goal: Electronically capture health record data in coded format, report health information, use that information to track clinical conditions.
- 2013 Goal: Guide and support care processes and care coordination.
- 2015 Goal: Achieve and improve performance and support care processes and key health system outcomes
How this translates to computer and data center implementations is where most healthcare organizations are currently struggling. For example, one healthcare company in south-central PA built a new data center just a few years ago that is quickly reaching its maximum capacity, even though it has just started implementing its EHR initiatives. It is struggling with these questions:
- 1.Should we expand our current data center, build a new one or use cloud computing to address growing needs?
- 2.Is a cloud approach secure and private enough for this highly sensitive data?
- 3.How does my data center differ from those in other industries?
- 4.How do I show ROI for the technologies I need to implement to support EHR initiatives and “meaningful use”?
- 5.How do I separate my critical patient-care data from non-critical internal-use data?
Many of these questions can be answered with standard products customized to the organization using them. This sounds like a huge opportunity not only for equipment and components suppliers to enterprise data centers, but also co-location data centers that could be providing managed services.