Overcoming Common Healthcare IT Headaches with HCI


Unlike other industries like finance or telecom, IT environments in India’s healthcare industry tend to be underdeveloped. Hospitals and other healthcare institutions are using systems that might be a decade or more out of date, which significantly impacts operations. In a few cases, everything still runs on paper. In a sense, they are disconnected from the modern world.

As dispiriting as this situation can be, the good news for IT professionals is that you can truly transform a healthcare institution that wants to change. With new technologies like hyperconvergence, there is a lot of scope for IT teams to improve healthcare operations—and therefore patient care—in India. It’s simply a matter of institutions wanting to do better. That was the case at Dr. KM Cherian Institute of Medical Sciences Pvt Ltd (KMC Chengannur).

Led by world-renowned cardiac surgeon Padmasree Dr. KM Cherian, ours is a 300+ bed hospital specializing in cardiac care in Chengannur, Kerala State, India. It is a brand new hospital, meaning that when I joined in September of 2020, there was no IT infrastructure. Given this unique opportunity to start from scratch, I knew I wanted to avoid the issues I had previously experienced at other healthcare centers. 

Industry-Wide IT Issues

Many of my previous IT challenges stemmed from maintaining as many as 10 different platforms. It meant that I had to dedicate multiple people from my team just to maintain the infrastructure, because one person can’t handle that many platforms on their own. That approach requires hiring larger teams, which is costly. Adding to the cost is the amount of training required, especially as management software often has a steep learning curve. Then, we had periodic firmware and software updates, which across many platforms was time-consuming and complex.

It’s unacceptable to be on the phone with #IT support for 30–40 minutes when patient care is at stake. #NutanixStories

Juggling multiple platforms also means juggling multiple reports with different insights. If we had five platforms, five sets of insights would have to be compiled for a weekly meeting. That took time, and also introduced the opportunity for human error.

Finally, our post-sale relationships with OEMs were pathetic. As a healthcare IT professional, my main priority is always zero downtime. In a hospital setting, our critical systems rely on our infrastructure. It’s unacceptable to be waiting on the line for my turn with customer care for 30–40 minutes when patient care is at stake. Whenever I’ve run into an issue, the only advice we receive from OEMs is, “Call support.”  I’ve never had a direct point of contact, and the support experience is awful. 

I’m certain anyone in the healthcare industry in India can relate to these issues. 

An HCI Pioneer in Kerala

I wanted a single solution that would minimize all these issues so my team could focus on more important activities like hospital operations and software and app development. Automation, alongside a single management console where I could manage upgrades, provision storage, and receive up-to-date reports would lead to greater efficiency. The right hyperconverged solution would minimize our IT costs across the board.

I looked at options from OEM giants like HPE, Dell VMware, and Nutanix. When I talked to those OEM clients, however, I heard their solutions were difficult to maintain and had limitations. By contrast, I heard a lot of good things said about Nutanix. The platform consistently ranked ahead of its competitors for hyperconvergence, and that’s why I ultimately chose Nutanix. 

Some people on the hospital board were initially skeptical about my choice, because we would be the first in Kerala to use Nutanix in healthcare. Ultimately, they trusted me to put our best IT foot forward. Now they are thankful they listened to me, because we are very happy Nutanix customers. 

Management in One Place

Typically, Nutanix has customers work with a local partner on implementation. As it turned out, being Nutanix’s first healthcare project in the state meant they wanted to help us with implementation directly. 

The project got underway in March 2021. We were well into the pandemic, and I was also busy attending to the hospital’s other IT operations. Nutanix told us they were going to send someone to perform the physical connections, and we were to provide them with a remote internal connection for the rest. They told us they would take care of everything—and they did. Three days later, they informed me the implementation was done. The rollout was so smooth, with 90% of it done remotely, and it required minimal involvement from me. This allowed me to focus my efforts elsewhere.

Almost a year later, everything we have now runs on Nutanix, from Active Directory and SQL servers to Oracle and file servers.

With automated infrastructure, you don’t have to dedicate human resources to data center management and system maintenance. #NutanixStories

From this single platform, it’s easy to manage and maintain everything. Software and firmware upgrades happen with a few clicks, and Nutanix automatically verifies the integrity of the cluster. Everything in Nutanix is so automated, with built-in alerts to notify me if anything goes wrong, that I don’t need to dedicate multiple people to handling the data center. It’s also easy to learn and use, meaning I need fewer human resources to maintain our systems. 

From Nutanix Prism, I have all the details I need to manage the infrastructure, including capacity planning, from a single pane of glass. Prism gives me insights into performance triggers, like whether I have any over-provisioned VMs, allowing me to better use resources. It’s easy to see whether there’s been any issue with data replication. I can write my own workflows from Prism, too, so I know if something goes wrong, my workflows will solve it automatically. 

At other hospitals where I’ve worked, it used to require half a day’s analysis work to compile insights from various platforms into a single usable management report. In Prism Central, it happens with a few clicks. The most important information is clear from the main dashboard. Nutanix Prism solves most problems itself, so my team and I can concentrate on higher-priority day-to-day activities. It’s the best console I’ve seen in my life. 

When we do need help, Nutanix support is an entirely different experience from what I’ve known with other OEMs. If I call, I can get a technician on the line in less than 10 minutes, and they will stay on the line with me until the problem is resolved. The Nutanix team in India also provides a lot of support. Their post-sale care is wonderful. I would recommend Nutanix on the basis of their superior support alone. As with everything else Nutanix, it’s easy and simple.

Modern Infrastructure Leads to Modern Hospitals

Nutanix promises 99.9999% uptime, and with such reliable, stable infrastructure, I expect to run our hospital’s IT with zero unplanned downtime 24/7/365. From here, I have begun to examine our disaster recovery (DR) processes. I’ve decided that our DR solution will also be with Nutanix, so I can still run everything from a single platform. 

HCI can bring healthcare organizations into the modern era. #NutanixStories

The challenges I faced at previous healthcare institutions weren’t unique to me. I’m certain my colleagues across the industry have faced similar obstacles, which prevents the facility from providing the best patient care possible. But they should know that Nutanix can bring their organization into the modern era of IT, and benefit everyone in the process.