Data Center Protecting Information

June 30, 2010

A high-tech data center in Washington, Mo., now is connecting every major clinical and business system…

What can transfer the entire contents of the Library of Congress in 6.5 seconds and withstand a F2 tornado? These are just a few of the innovative features of the new data center built by the Sisters of Mercy Health System in Washington, MO. The $60 million, 42,500-square-foot center, designed and built specifically to support Mercy’s 26 hospitals, physician offices and other services, was previewed Thursday by community board members, physicians and leaders from across the health system’s four-state region. The center is in its final stages of construction and will open this summer.

“The Mercy Data Center is like the Fort Knox of data,” said Will Showalter, Mercy chief information officer. “In a world where identity theft is common, it’s critical that our patients’ medical information is safely protected from outsiders or natural disasters, and yet completely accessible to their healthcare teams.”

Because healthcare today depends on 24/7 availability of technology and information, the Mercy Data Center was designed with fail-safe features to withstand a variety of natural events, power or water interruptions and even failures within the building itself. Every support system that protects data in the center is fully duplicated – with backups for power, cooling and network connectivity – and the facility can operate up to 72 hours in the case of an electrical power outage. Network bandwidth and computer processing power can also be added as needs arise.

“Today, almost every way that Mercy serves and communicates with patients is supported by technology. As one of only two percent of healthcare organizations using a comprehensive electronic health record system to connect our hospitals and physician offices, the data center will ensure our ability to keep this system and other clinical technology available around-the-clock,” said Lynn Britton, Mercy president and CEO.

Other unique aspects of the data center design include:

  • The center was designed to be compliant with LEED standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council. Of the 255 tons of steel used, 100% came from recycled sources.
  • The data center’s location in Washington, Mo., was chosen from more than 20 sites based on its bedrock foundation, access to alternate sources of power and water, distance from earthquake fault lines, and proximity to other Mercy operations.
  • The core of the center’s network, which receives and sends electronic information, could transfer the entire contents of the Library of Congress in less than 6.5 seconds.
  • More than 2 million feet – nearly 400 miles – of fiber optic cable is used to carry data through the center, enough to reach from St. Louis, Mo., to Milwaukee, Wis.

Mercy’s data needs are growing as Mercy’s dependence on technology has grown:

  • Since introducing an electronic health record system in early 2008, Mercy has seen 1,742,130 unique patients and created an electronic health record for each.
  • Nearly 40 million orders for care have been placed electronically.
  • Mercy currently stores over 6 million medical imaging studies (X-ray, ultrasound, etc.) in digital format. They occupy 125 terabytes of information – the equivalent storage space would take 8,000 iPhones.

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