St. Dominic Hospital - Big Data Success


Award-winning healthcare provider manages explosive growth of Big Data with Isilon

Founded in 1946, St. Dominic Hospital is one of the most comprehensive healthcare providers in the greater Jackson, Mississippi area. The 535-bed acute care hospital provides patients with outstanding facilities and a wide range of specialized services. Regularly recognized with top rankings by industry and government review organizations, St. Dominic’s recently appeared in U.S. News & World Report's "Best Hospitals" survey for the second consecutive year.

St. Dominic Hospital's Big Data assets were growing at a rate of 20 percent annually due both to advances in imaging technology and the expansion of its healthcare network through the acquisition of doctors’ offices, a diagnostic imaging center, and the opening of health clinics in Walmart stores. In addition, new healthcare reform regulations required greater use of electronic medical records (EMR), resulting in more information being captured in online patient charts with long retention requirements.

An aging PACS and EMR archiving platform running on legacy storage could no longer keep pace with the hospital’s growth. The NetApp clusters we had in place at the time, which housed home directories, departmental shares and several document management systems, had become so I/O bound that it didn’t have enough disks to service the data requests. After evaluating solutions from IBM, Dell, NetApp, Scale Computing and EMC®, St. Dominic Hospital selected EMC Isilon® scale-out storage for its performance, scalability and ease of management. Wendell W. Pinegar, St. Dominic’s applications supervisor, explains, “We were impressed with the simplicity of Isilon. Having one namespace for all of our unstructured data, home directories, and document shares was very attractive. Isilon was also easier to administer and upgrade compared to other vendors' solutions. It worked right out of the box without hours of complex configuration.”

“A significant amount of the pain experienced in purchasing a new storage solution is migrating large amounts of data, ” he continues, “so we needed a 'forever' solution with unlimited scalability. Because our core mission is patient care, a key design requirement was to maintain two geographically dispersed storage clusters with separate but identical copies of our medical images and patient records. Meeting the explosive demands for growth was also a significant challenge so we needed to simplify our overall storage environment. With Isilon's scale-out storage and advanced software, we discovered a very painless way to achieve all those requirements. ”

St. Dominic Hospital consolidated its legacy storage environment onto Isilon NL- Series in two clusters, replicating the large archives from one cluster to the other for secure backup of critical medical and patient information. A vendor-neutral archive based on GE Centricity PACS, leverages Isilon to store massive image files collected by multiple modalities such as CT-scans, vascular studies, mammography, 3D ultrasound, MRI, and radiology. St. Dominic’s also stores its McKesson Horizon Patient Folder (HPF) EMR solution on Isilon. In total, nearly one-half billion PACS and HPF files reside on a single Isilon system. In addition, St. Dominic’s uses Isilon InsightIQ™ performance management, SmartLock® data retention, SnapshotIQ™ data protection and SyncIQ® data replication software.

Since implementing its Isilon system, St. Dominic’s has improved performance of its Big Data archive, dramatically trimming response time for image retrieval while gaining limitless scalability. For example, in the hospital’s HPF environment, retrieval of medical record images improved from up to six seconds to less than a second on Isilon.
“With Isilon we have eliminated storage I/O bottlenecks,” reports Pinegar. “When our Isilon infrastructure rollout is complete, we will have achieved a 1,000 percent increase in sustained I/O performance versus our older multivendor environment.”

St. Dominic’s can also add capacity without disrupting access to data by medical staff or hospital administrators. “With Isilon, there’s no top end,” says Pinegar. “We just add nodes and the cluster dynamically brings in additional storage with no downtime. When you have to manage the kind of huge 3D image files that medical technology is now producing, that scalability is critical. Isilon allows us to continue growing as large as we want and as fast as we need without over-building storage.”

Isilon software also plays an important role in meeting St. Dominic’s demanding Big Data requirements. For example, SyncIQ replicates data from one Isilon cluster to another, providing a fully redundant copy of patient data that enables the hospital to maintain operations even if the production site was disabled. “Because we utilize SyncIQ along with clinical applications that support mirrored datasets we can even connect staff to the second copy of the data with immediate and transparent access,” notes Pinegar. “So physicians and other hospital staff can continue running with no disruption to patient care. This is the ideal design and we couldn't do it without Isilon.”

As another level of data protection, St. Dominic's leverages SnapshotIQ software to retain copies of files for recovery. Users can self-service restore previous versions of lost or corrupted files without IT involvement. In addition, SmartLock helps St. Dominic’s comply with regulatory requirements for

data retention. Most PACS studies must be retained for seven years while some files, such as mammography images and pediatrics, must be retained indefinitely. Pinegar comments, “SmartLock is a key technology for compliance because it locks down the files stored on Isilon so they can never be modified. We decided to keep our patient medical records indefinitely, because the data is that important. Now we can be sure that the records are retained because they are secured by SmartLock.”

The simplicity and efficiency of Isilon has helped St. Dominic’s IT organization regain valuable time that can now be dedicated to more strategic projects. “As far as maintenance, there’s not a lot to do,” says Pinegar. “Since we don’t have to concentrate on day-to-day management of storage, Isilon has allowed us to focus on projects that add value for the hospital.”
He adds, “We’ve already performed several upgrades of the Isilon nodes with 100 percent uptime. The entire solution is easy to manage and requires just a few touch points for any task.”

By consolidating multiple archive solutions onto Isilon, St. Dominic’s has reduced costs substantially compared to its previous archive infrastructure and hosting alternatives. “For our PACS environment alone, Isilon costs 72 percent less in total cost of ownership than a hosted vendor-neutral archive platform over a five-year period,” Pinegar states. “When we factor together the long-term costs associated with our older storage platforms, we anticipate 50 percent savings on yearly expenses. To our surprise and contrary to conventional wisdom, it was more cost-effective to build our own cloud for PACS than to farm it out.”

“It was important to select a qualified EMC authorized reseller to assist us with the purchase of a scale-out storage environment,” Pinegar said. “So we contacted Ed Gogol at Presidio. They had already delivered solutions to over 150 hospitals so we immediately felt confident they would do a good job for us. Not only did Presidio understand the Healthcare market but they also understood the unique concerns we had as a hospital.” He recalled, “Presidio was instrumental in our Isilon purchase. We were delighted to choose Presidio and we would recommend Presidio as a business partner. When we consider EMC we always consider Presidio.”

The advantages of Isilon are having far-reaching impact across St. Dominic Hospital. “At St. Dominic's we realize that it's all about the patient and we are ever mindful that our purpose is to serve those in need. Isilon has helped us simplify our infrastructure while improving the quality of patient care and the overall efficiency of our organization,” reflects Pinegar. “This allows us to concentrate on the bigger picture and work toward strategic improvements within the hospital and we simply couldn’t do that without EMC Isilon.”
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