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3/12/2004
03:34 PM
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Up And Running In A Disaster

Health First upgrades its data and image storage systems to provide faster recovery should disaster knock out its technology infrastructure

Technology is important to Health First, a nonprofit network of hospitals, health centers, physicians, and insurers in Florida. No clipboards hang at the end of beds. Every room has a computer so doctors and nurses can call up a patient history with a keystroke.

"Paper charts for vitals are gone," says Steve Shim, director of technical services in the health-information department, "and medical errors due to legibility issues are gone with them."

Now Shim is trying to reduce from weeks to hours the time it takes to bring IT systems back to life after a disaster or some other problem knocks them out. Health First already has a disaster-recovery deal with IBM to back up its hospital information system and enterprise-resource-planning applications at a site in Sterling Forest, N.Y., in times of disaster.

But beginning this spring, Shim plans to deploy an IBM Enterprise Storage Server that can hold up to 30 terabytes of data. Prices start at $350,000. The system will let Health First implement data mirroring between sites and, through a Fibre Channel connection, cut telecom costs by half and boost data-access speeds by as much as 30%. The most-secure hospital in Health First's network is Holmes Regional, 45 miles inland from the company headquarters in Melbourne. The two locations will be linked.

When a disaster knocks out the headquarters, it's important to provide an alternative site where people can work and access records, Shim says. "We realize that our highly educated people during a life-threatening crisis aren't going to leave their families," he says.

Health First has worked with IBM and systems integrator Champion Solutions Group to develop a digital imaging system. "We create diagnostic images of patients, view the history online, and deliver a full service from diagnosis to treat- ment to follow-up," Shim says.

Eliminating paper and film records makes backup and recovery easier and faster. Says Shim, "Now we need to scale that for the whole organization."

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