Achieving Better Patient Outcomes with All-Flash Storage

North York General Hospital (www.nygh.on.ca) is one of Canada’s leading community academic hospitals, serving south central Ontario through three sites in the Toronto area, including a 419-bed hospital and a 190-bed long-term care facility. In 2016, it received the prestigious HIMSS Davies Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in improving patient-care outcomes and return on investment through advanced health information technology.

I recently had a conversation with Sumon Acharjee, the hospital’s Chief Information Officer, to discuss how Pure Storage can improve patient care.

VN: North York General Hospital has been a leader in healthcare technology for many years, and was the first hospital in Canada to reach a HIMSS Stage 6 designation. What have you learned about maximizing the impact of IT on patient outcomes?

SA: The most important lesson, of course, is that patients always come first, and that any IT deployment must be in service to patients and the clinicians who care for them. Another important lesson – especially for those of us who work in government-run healthcare– is that you pay really close attention to long-term ROI.

VN: Most people in any industry would say ROI is important. Why do you say it’s especially the case with a government-funded hospital?

SA: Funding is always constrained, and we follow a seven-year cycle for refreshing our IT infrastructure. So, when we do make an investment in IT, we need to get the biggest bang for our buck over the long term.

VN: A seven-year replacement cycle doesn’t match the traditional business model for the mass-storage industry, does it?

SA: No, it doesn’t at all. Traditional storage vendors expect you to do a forklift upgrade about the fourth year, and if you don’t, you are going to pay very high maintenance fees. That’s why we love the Evergreen™ Storage model from Pure.

VN: What appealed to you about the Evergreen business model from Pure?

SA: When you have a seven-year refresh cycle, it’s very valuable to know your maintenance costs for the life of the product. To underscore my point, the savings from just two years’ maintenance on our old spinning-disk system paid for the entire purchase of Pure.

VN: You are the first hospital to put its Cerner EHR environment on Pure Storage. What has been the result?

SA: Being the first to deploy Cerner on Pure, we were cautious. We did a very exhaustive proof-of-concept before moving over our production workloads. We tested every claim that Pure made in its sales pitch, and every one of them held up. We saw huge performance gains. For example, we recorded a 98% drop in the time needed to perform a common SQL query – from 15 minutes or more down to 20 seconds. And routine pharmacy reports were finished in two minutes, compared to more than 10 minutes with our old storage.

VN: And have those POC results continued once you put Pure into your production environment?

SA: Yes, absolutely. And it’s not just the IT department that has seen the benefits. Our clinicians spend less time pulling up patient files and obtaining reports, and that means they have more time to spend with patients. And as I said, earlier, that’s the outcome you want from your IT investments.

VN: Any other departments seeing the change from moving to Pure Storage?

SA: The data reduction we are getting on the Pure array means our system support teams have a very efficient way to clone Cerner domains for testing and development work. And thanks to the improved system performance, our business intelligence decision-support team – which performs a lot of analysis on data gathered over several years – can now generate significantly greater business insight in a much shorter amount of time.

VN: So, Pure Storage has had a demonstrable impact on the hospital?

SA: No question about it. Cerner is deployed in every in-patient area of the hospital. It is a mission-critical system that needs to have maximum performance, resiliency and uptime. Pure Storage delivers on all three of those requirements, while saving us money now and long into the future.