Rick Mohnk and Robin Yarnall – Bayhealth
A year from now, the hospital’s staff will probably still be getting used to things: the commute, the different workspaces and workflows. Some adjustments will be easy, like lunching on the new cafeteria’s breezy outdoor patio. Other changes will prove a bit more arduous.
But when Delaware health care provider Bayhealth opens its new, $300 million Sussex County campus in February 2019, the facility’s IT backbone is one thing doctors and nurses won’t lose sleep over.
“We’ve got huge teams hard at work making sure the transition is a smooth one,” says Rick Mohnk, Bayhealth’s chief information officer. “The new campus marks a huge improvement for our services, and IT stands to be a big part of that.”
Plenty of hospitals are busy adopting new electronic health records (EHR) systems or telemedicine protocols. But building an entire medical campus from the ground up, complete with all the technology bells and whistles? In that camp, Bayhealth is one of a few. Not that it’s been easy.
The move represents an enormous logistical challenge, involving the installation of countless computers, machines and other infrastructure.
“The goal is to have zero downtime with our critical systems,” Robin Yarnall, Bayhealth’s director of applications, explains.
As the new hospital becomes operational, Bayhealth will continue to run applications and infrastructure from its primary data center, located at the nearby Kent General Hospital. For things like vital signs, staff will need to enter data manually, for approximately 12 hours, while patients are transferred.
According to Yarnall, the goal is to provide an electronic tracking board to clearly identify each patient’s exact location during the transfer process.
Laying the foundation
Installed in 2016, Bayhealth’s Epic software sits at the heart of this (hopefully) seamless transition. Serving as the electronic health records system (EHR), Epic must be safely shepherded to the Sussex campus.
Once the new hospital is operational, Epic will begin receiving information from a litany of cutting-edge tools and technologies, including emergency diagnostic imaging and an adjacent imaging suite. Next door, at the campus’ outpatient center, diagnostic machines—everything from EKGs and PFTs to stress tests—will likewise be fed into Epic.
Of course, patient data is only as good—or as accurate—as the last record. To that end, Bayhealth recently voted to become an “Opt Out” organization, joining a network of providers throughout the country that are able to share patient records without requiring consent for each individual document.
“The more up-to-date our records are, the better we’ll be at making sure patients are being directed to the proper resources,” Mohnk says. “When you’re dealing with a completely new set of operations, having that kind of continuity is critical.”
“Most of the Epic system updates we run take less than an hour,” Mohnk explains. “So again, the goal is to have zero interruption to patient service.”
In the lead-up to the Sussex campus opening, Mohnk and Yarnall have worked closely with a number of third-party vendors to optimize workflow. Zones, an IT-services company specializing in workplace modernization (and a longtime partner of Bayhealth), is at the forefront of those efforts.
From configuring data-center hardware to “road-mapping” Bayhealth’s digital environment (allowing for more effective cybersecurity), Zones has been a go-to source for many of Mohnk’s and Yarnall’s most pressing IT needs.
“What’s impressive about Bayhealth is how effectively they utilize so many of our services,” says Alissa Fowler, health care account executive for Zones. “Because they’re on a premier contract, they’ve leveraged a lot of different resources to alleviate some of the pressure on what they’re trying to do.”
Bells and whistles
Bayhealth is also planning to bolster its primary data center—located in Dover—with a secondary facility on the Sussex Campus. According to Yarnall, the new data warehouse will serve the dual purpose of providing extra storage space, while also serving as a failsafe for any disaster recovery efforts—be the cause inclement weather, a data breach or something else.
“Back in 2013, at a time when most hospitals were transitioning to the cloud, we decided to keep our data in-house,” Yarnall explains. ”We had just completed the build-out of a brand new state-of-the-art data center, and we wanted to take advantage of that space.”
The hospital is also working to install a comprehensive Voice over IP phone system (knowing as VoIP). Unlike traditional company phone systems, VoIP allows for a range of cutting-edge capabilities, such as unified communications across the enterprise.
“I think the organization is truly starting to see the impact of technology in everything we do,” Yarnall says. “For so many years, IT was a reactive service organization. But it’s being empowered to be much more proactive, and I think that’s at testament to our ability to work together.”
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