Health care organizations manage and store massive amounts of data. They are also tasked with making this data accessible and actionable to patients, providers, and insurance companies by adding analytics and other intelligent services on top of the data.
Healthix, the largest public health information exchange in the U.S., is working with NetApp to tackle both of these challenges. The health information exchange stores and manages data from health organizations across New York City and Long Island for more than 16 million patients. Reliability, performance, and uptime are all essential requirements, said Todd Rogow, CIO at Healthix.
The organization’s storage requires about 100 terabytes per year. Over the last three years since he’s been at Healthix, Rogow has seen clinical information coming in for processing grow from about 15 million messages a month to more than 50 million. These messages come from participating organizations, ranging from large hospital systems, provider practices, behavioral health and community based organizations, home care agencies and health plans.
In addition to processing these 50 million messages, the organization also sends out about 750,000 clinical information requests in real-time each month.
“We’re a 24-7 by 365-day organization,” Rogow said. “Performance is critical, and that is a big factor that goes into who we chose as a vendor: longevity of their hardware and stability on the performance side. One great thing about NetApp and the speed at which their storage operates: we’re able to quickly consume and also push out all of this clinical data into our health care organizations and their applications so they can make use of that data as they see patients.”
The organization is moving to all-flash storage, and last week deployed a NetApp SolidFire 150-terabye all-flash array. Healthix is also using NetApp data management software, which allows it to share patient data among healthcare organizations and comply with patient privacy laws and regulations. It also supports the analytics engine that updates patient risk scores every night.
The fast storage and software also enables emergency room physicians in different facilities to use Healthix to retrieve a patient’s medical history, including medication lists and allergies, to help them determine whether they are dealing with an existing problem or a new issue.
It was taking an average of seven seconds to retrieve clinical information on a patient. With the new flash storage, it takes three seconds.
Rogow also expects the technology to speed up Healthix’s nightly patient risk scoring. “That process takes 10 hours every night to do all that number crunching, so that’s really getting in my way of achieving our goal of real-time analytics,” Rogow said. “I’m hoping to cut that in half,” to five hours, he added.
Looking ahead, Rogow said he plans to enlist NetApp to move Healthix’s backup storage to the cloud. NetApp has a service that analyzes storage needs and compares prices across Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Bluemix, and others. It then migrates a company’s data to the cloud provider it chooses.
Private Cloud Storage
Securing patient health information to meet the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPA) requirements “can be a tricky proposition for some in a public cloud environment,” said Paul Smith, national practice leader, healthcare insurance at NetApp. “The element that distinguishes us is an option called NetApp Private Storage.”
This uses Equinix’s colocation services to give companies direct connections to cloud providers, allowing them to bypass the public Internet.
“The benefit is the best of all worlds,” Smith said. “The data at rest is secure, in a secure cage that meets the very exact HIPA standards. But then, if during peak periods you need to burst to the cloud for compute needs, that becomes an easy hop from our NetApp Private Storage into any of the large hyperscalers but your data remains in a secure environment.”