Securing Better Patient Journeys with HPE SimpliVity
Hospitals aren’t particularly enjoyable places. They may be an essential service, but no one actually wants to spend time there as a patient. When people are brought into a hospital, all they really want is to be fixed up and sent back to the outside world.
This experience of fixing people up and returning them to the outside world is known as the patient journey, and the idea is to get people through the system as efficiently as possible so they can get back to their lives. We understand that people come into hospitals when they are at their worst. But regardless of the patient’s state, all hospital workers have to make their positive contribution to this experiential journey.
For the medical professional, that means exhibiting the exceptional care and professionalism that patients deserve. For the staff, it means efficient processing and remaining courteous and sensitive to patient fears and concerns. For the administration, it means prioritizing patient experiences and outcomes.
For the IT team, it means making sure that the supporting technology is always available, stable, and secure.
The Patient's Journey From the Other Side
At South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD), the patient journey is always top of mind. The SESLHD is a health care agency covering nine districts around Sydney, including eastern Sydney, Southern Sydney, and Port Botany. The area includes more than 830,000 people from a wide variety of diverse groups, and we provide culturally sensitive and language-appropriate services to these areas.
Our management area includes eight public hospitals and a public nursing home. We also have a commitment to meeting the public where they are by providing outreach services in places like community centers. Here we provide a variety of supports including drug and alcohol counseling, aged care services, and mental health assistance.
As you might imagine, maintaining an IT operation in such a vast area with many different organizations can be a challenge. As the IT operations manager, that challenge is mine to solve. In the past, for the most part, each entity purchased equipment and software as they needed at any given time. Some systems worked well, but over time, others became more precarious. Overall, most of our systems were fractured environments with no way to address future capacity issues.
From the moment a patient enters the hospital they are scanned into our system using their medical identification. That opens a case file within our system that flows from department to department until the patient is released. When it works great, it dramatically decreases patient waiting times and increases our ability to service more people. But every moment the system is down could compromise our ability to provide service at a critical time.
A few years ago, our government mandated that all IT infrastructure be moved into purpose-built data center facilities. The idea was to move away from the more haphazard practices of the past. All information would be secure, with proper redundancy and power regulation.
Along with this mandate came an opportunity to rebuild our entire IT infrastructure from scratch. Since we had to start over anyway, why not build the kind of system we really wanted?
Considering the Treatment
We knew this was our transformational moment, so we had to be meticulous in our planning. The decision team examined a wide variety of products and infrastructure solutions. The goal was to pick the technology that would work for us in both the short and long term. Ultimately, we settled on HPE SimpliVity.
One of the biggest reasons we went with HPE SimpliVity was the all-in-one appliance scalability of the infrastructure. We loved the ability to simply add nodes as needed, as opposed to other solutions that required large upfront capital investments or significant changes as we grew. Going with HPE SimpliVity meant we could plan for growth in a controlled and strategic manner.
We also loved that the HPE SimpliVity infrastructure included built-in backup and restoration functions. Because we deal with medical information, we cannot afford to lose precious data. And even a few minutes of downtime can mean a loss of life. We needed a system that was built to automatically overcome a variety of downtime incidents, rather than trying to build a backup system based on whatever resources were available.
From an administrative perspective, we also love that HPE SimpliVity runs on VMware. Our staff was already familiar with VMware, which would minimize the learning curve. They wouldn't have to spend a lot of time learning new skills, which would give us more time to focus on other areas of the transformation and help all of our facilities get up to speed.
Another selling point was HPE GreenLake, which provided a pay-per-use cloud services structure. That meant we could reclassify our IT infrastructure from a capital expenditure (CAPEX) to an operating expenditure (OPEX). This was preferable because capital expenditures require large upfront costs with uncertainty about the durability and flexibility of the system. It was no fun asking the finance team for huge one-time payouts and then basically bluffing our way through difficult follow-up questions.
As an added bonus, using HPE GreenLake would allow us to effectively pass the costs of HPE SimpliVity on to the offices we serve. In the same way that we pay a bill every month for HPE SimpliVity, these offices would pay us for things we host on our private cloud. That basically creates a cost-neutral situation. On top of that, the finance team loves that they can now grow predictably.
The OPEX model was much easier to sell to our finance team. We could tell them this expenditure would cost a specific amount each month, allowing them to budget. We could also scale up or down as needed. Best of all, there were far fewer uncertainties about future conditions. We had the flexibility to adapt to whatever happened.
Facilitating the Transition
When I joined the team, the team had already settled on HPE SimpliVity and GreenLake and the infrastructure was in place. I was part of the building and transition effort, which involved creating a strategy to transform the organization's architecture into the new model.
Perhaps the most difficult thing about the transition was engaging with each of the business units. In many cases, the new system required them to order software upgrades that could work with our technology. Many of these offices were perfectly happy using their older software, but we had to convince them to go along with our new requirements.
Initially, we wanted to break down the workload projects by difficulty. For example, if we found a single, isolated database, we might treat that as low hanging fruit and handle that first. On the other hand, we were also dealing with incredibly complicated infrastructure like our Citrix environment. The idea was that once we’d completed the small, easy stuff, we’d tackle the more intricate projects.
The interesting thing was that HPE SimpliVity was so flexible that many of the intricate details didn't matter. That incredibly complicated Citrix environment turned out to be a big early win. We ran the Citrix VDI on HPE SimpliVity, and users began commenting on the faster speeds and smoother experience almost immediately. That, of course, made it easier to convince other offices to cooperate in moving their applications and files.
Like the relief that accompanies a successful treatment plan, it feels great to see the positive impact of our new infrastructure. Where we once had many separate systems that occasionally worked together, we now have two data centers that work in harmony, creating a perfect backup for each other. In the event of problems in one center, it is incredibly easy to run workloads using the backups from the other center. That seamless dual structure gives us great confidence in its reliability. Even when things do go wrong, restoration takes mere minutes.
Under the old system, the slightest IT problems could result in hours of downtime, and the implications for us are more than just lost time and lost money. No one wants a patient to suffer longer than necessary—or worse—because technology failed.
Best of all, HPE has a top-notch support team. They were dedicated to answering all of our questions and providing step-by-step assistance where necessary. They understand that customer service is about helping us reach our goals, not just landing the purchase. That customer experience gave us the confidence to believe in their product, even before everything was fully in place.
Back Into the World
Patients don't care about a hospital’s underlying data infrastructure, and families don't question the medical staff about the reliability of data centers or the frequency of system backups. All they care about is being taken care of quickly and efficiently.
They may not know HPE SimpliVity by name, but they can feel it. They can tell that the staff trusts their equipment and has faith in their applications. They can feel the difference when they move smoothly through the processes from admission to discharge.
Our top priority is providing an exceptional patient journey and seamless medical services. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. And powering it all is HPE SimpliVity.