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Small hospitals face computer woes: HIMSS study

CHICAGO – Small and medium-sized hospitals plan to increase their spending on data centres to prepare for electronic health records and other applications. But a host of challenges threatens to undermine the effectiveness of their investments.

According to a study of hospital IT executives by HIMSS Analytics on behalf of Dell, data centres at small and medium hospitals in the U.S., U.K., Canada, China, France and Germany will be challenged by a lack of standards, security, extended server refresh cycles and complexity created by a large number of servers and vendors and limited use of virtualization.

Moreover, Dell officials say the lack of data centre standards complicates the information sharing within and between hospitals necessary for diagnosis, decision-making and coordination and management of patient care.

With refresh cycles of five years or more, small and medium hospitals rely on servers that are less efficient and cost more to run and manage as they prepare for a significant increase in data over the next two years.

Without aggressive adoption of virtualization, Dell says, hospitals that simply add servers and storage to their data centres to meet growing data demand will end up perpetuating the complexity that already consumes a majority of their IT resources, leaving less of their budgets for strategic priorities even as they invest more in IT.

“Small and medium hospitals are a sizeable component of the healthcare delivery system in most countries,” Jamie Coffin, vice president of Dell Healthcare and Life Sciences, said in a statement. “We must ensure that all hospitals – large and small, new and existing – are equipped with the right IT infrastructure to support information demands today and in the future.

“We cannot simply throw servers and storage at information demand or complexity will over-run IT budgets and leave little support for the strategic HIT [health information technology] priorities which support healthcare reform and business initiatives.”

The Healthcare Enterprise Survey conducted by HIMSS Analytics asked hospital IT executives to assess the readiness of their hospital data centres to support new information demands as reform initiatives such as EMRs (electronic medical records) and digital imaging become more pervasive.

Published February 11,2010