By Linda F. Jarrett
Last April, Sisters of Mercy broke ground in Washington, Mo. on their new $60 million data center that will serve Mercy hospitals, outpatient facilities, physician offices and other services throughout a seven-state area that includes Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
“This was born out of the fact that Mercy had as many as seven data centers across our organization several years ago,” Jeff Bell, chief technology officer, says. “We’ve consolidated those down to three enterprise class data centers today, and all of those centers are part of other buildings.
THE ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORD
Bell says that “pursuit of the electronic medical record” was the primary driver for building the new facility.
He says that many people believe that their medical records are already computerized.
“But all those transactions have resulted in a paper record of some sort that’s become a part of the patient’s chart, which is a record of their entire visit, all the diagnostics, therapies and outcomes.
“The information has always been paper-based and housed and moved around,
with caretaking performed by the hospital,” he says.
An electronic medical record yields no paper; it facilitates clinical decision support, which allows for the computer to assist the caregiver in making critical clinical decisions.
“What this means,” Bell says, “is, for example, if a patient only weighs 90 pounds, do you really order a drug in a certain dose, or do you want to order a smaller dose? Or, it can alert the clinician to turn a patient every so many hours if he or she is on a certain kind of medication or therapy.”
Bell says that most of Mercy’s charts have been scanned into electronic documents, and every patient room and clinic exam room will be outfitted with a computer. “Information, whether it’s gathered at the clinic or hospital or any other outpatient setting associated with Mercy Hospitals will be available to any caregiver authorized to look at a specific patient’s record.”
WHY A NEW CENTER?
Mercy is classified as the ninth largest Catholic healthcare system in the U.S. based on net patient service revenue. Its entities include 18 acute care hospitals providing more than 4,000 licensed beds, two heart hospitals, a managed care subsidiary (Mercy Health Plans), physician practices, outpatient care facilities, home health programs, skilled nursing services and long-term care facilities. Services are provided by approximately 31,000 co-workers and 4,600 physicians who are employed or practice at Mercy facilities.
Handling the amount of information coming into all of these locations in a most efficient and expedient manner is of
“With all of the medical records online and the official legal medical record being only in the computer, not on a patient paper chart, the importance of having that system up and available is greatly increased,” Bell says.
Mercy now has four data centers housing information in Missouri. The new center in Washington will be the primary center, with the current center in St. Louis as the secondary.
“If all else fails,” Bell says. “And all the redundancies are overcome out in Washington, we will still have a secondary copy of all the data in our present St. Louis facility.” The other two centers will close, he says.
CRITERIA FOR THE CENTER
Locating the right site for a data center takes some doing, and Sisters of Mercy recruited Deloitte Consulting, LLP for that job.
Bell says that Mercy had “about 50 criteria” for a “desirable data center” site. “Deloitte came up with about 25 locations across our major geographic area which includes St. Louis, Western Illinois and the Springfield, Mo. regions.”
In January 2007, RCGA’s economic development team was contacted by Chicago-based Deloitte Consulting regarding a potential data center project with the code name “Project Zion”. As with most projects, the consultants did not initially share the company’s identity with RCGA. As the first point of contact for “Project Zion,” RCGA submitted a detailed proposal that included six potential sites (3 in Missouri/3 in Illinois) and responses to very specific project criteria provided by Deloitte Consulting. RCGA then hosted a mid-February briefing and site inspection visit by the consultants. The city of Washington, Ameren and the Missouri Department of Economic Development collaborated to put the winning site package together and the new data center was announced in April 2008.
Some of the project criteria included:
+ Proximity to major thoroughfares. (“We wanted them to be fairly close, but not on an interstate, not near an airport or railway because of dangers and risks in those locations.”)
+ Away from any major fault lines.
+ Proximity to Mercy’s existing data centers. (“That would allow us to synchronize and copy data between the two centers because data written in one data center is simultaneously written in the others.”)
+ Accessibility to main suppliers.
+ Away from consistent tornado patterns.
+ Ability to get high speed data
connections into the sites.
“These were weighted individually and, after careful analysis, Washington came out on top,” Bell says.
CONSTRUCTING THE CENTER
Mercy tapped S.M. Wilson to do the design/build for their project, and they were engaged early in the process.
Fred Jaeckle, S.M. Wilson vice president for preconstruction and estimating, says by this happening, “We were active in supporting the financial decision on site selection so that any of the constraints that would have impacted the first cost of this facility by choosing site A versus site B. in helping their management decision, we evaluated all of those intrinsic costs.”
Some of those decisions dealt with distance of the redundant power and cost of getting it to the property, and the incidental costs of bringing utilities to the site.
“Like water,” Jaeckle says. “Those types of buildings use a fair amount of water to
cool down the plant. Taking storm and
sanitary away were other issues.”
The “primary driver,” according to Jaeckle, was the availability of the electrical power source. “These centers are quite intense on their energy consumption from an electrical standpoint. The center was built to
“This means we have to have two of everything that is critical to keeping our data safe and available,” Bell says. It will have redundant power and data service. So, for example, if one of the power supplies to the building goes out, there will be another power feed that takes over. “The amount of power that we’re bringing into this building would light up the town of Lebanon, Mo” he says.
Jaeckle says they actually use enough to light it up twice, hence the 2N criteria.
“You have to find the affordable number to spend on a facility,” he says. “You just can’t gorge up money to make it work, so we spent a lot of time working with our design team with great contributions by the staff of MISD (Mercy Informational Services Division), and the plant people to make sure that we’re providing a building that satisfies the use.
“From there,” he says, “we spent a great amount of time making sure that we were maximizing what we could achieve to handle all this electronic data and produce a plant that was energy-efficient. Our goal was to make sure that it satisfied the budget, and that it operationally satisfied the need.”
Regarding potentially catastrophic events like an earthquake or tornadoes, Jaeckle says the building “is braced accordingly to satisfy the acceleration criteria that are in the seismic code.
For tornado activity, the center was “designed to F-2 criteria,” he says. “It will withstand a two-by-four being launched by a tornado into its roof or sides.”
THE END RESULT
The actual building is scheduled for completion in December 2009.
“Once we’re complete,” Jaeckle says, “We’ll work hand-in-glove in making all the systems come on line to satisfy what they have to do for processing.”
Bell says that after they get the keys to the building, it will take six months to commission the building. “This is basically testing all the systems and documenting how all the mechanical aspects work, and how the levers, switches and gears operate within
The ultimate goal is to have the center up and operational in August of 2010.
Then, no more paper charts.