Healthcare organizations using data analytics to assess financial and clinical processes and better understand a range of other issues ought to also be analyzing performance of their information technology systems.
There is real value in infrastructure performance management analytics, says Randy Davis, CIO at 99-bed CGH Medical Center in Sterling, Ill. The decision to start looking for better performance answers, born out of frustration, started more than two years ago, he recalls. “You’d ask questions and very smart people would shrug at you.”
Healthcare IT departments have gifted technicians who aren’t being given the right tools, Davis contends. As he sought to better assess the overall performance of the IT systems, it became obvious that he—and other CIOs—have been holding back their staff on being able to know for certain the status of their infrastructure.
A web search brought Davis to Virtual Instruments in San Jose, which sells analytics for infrastructure performance management. “They were the key missing link to analyze and be confident with our virtualization layer and SAN (storage area network) environments,” he says. When the analyzing began, unknown problems started being found. The hospital’s VMware environment had very long reboot times, among other performance issues, and the cause turned out to be a series of bad settings in the environment.
Another finding was traffic flows in systems that had no business being there, slowing down the systems. Just as important in finding problems, Davis says, is the process of elimination by finding which other parts are not contributing to a performance problem. The ability to rule out issues has helped as much as tools showing what is wrong.
For instance, the outpatient electronic health record system was slow and analysis pointed the finger not at the medical center’s information environment, but at the EHR vendor, which fessed up and made fixes, solving the problem without going on a wild goose chase, Davis says.
CGH Medical Center is a $200 million business and buying the Virtual Instruments analytics was “modestly expensive,” yet affordable and not even close to being a $1 million purchase, Davis says.
During vendor selection, two reference calls told Davis they were embarrassed to admit what they found in their organizations using the analytics. His advice to others: “Yes, it might be modestly expensive, but how can we not afford to have these tools? The bottom line is this tool pointed out issues in our environment that the tools provided by other vendors would not and will not do.”
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