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Lifespan Undergoes Total Transformation of Network Architecture to Support “One Patient, One Record” EMR Model

Lifespan, which is Rhode Island’s largest health system and is comprised of Rhode Island Hospital, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Miriam Hospital, Bradley Hospital, Newport Hospital and Gateway Healthcare, is a comprehensive, integrated, academic health system affiliated with The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.  As a not-for-profit organization, Lifespan is overseen by a board of volunteer community leaders who are guided by its ultimate mission: delivering health with care.

In support of this mission, Lifespan is currently installing the Epic electronic medical record (EMR) system to emphasize a patient-centric model and deliver on the promise of “one patient, one record.” The Epic EMR system organizes patient information from different caregivers into a single electronic medical record. As a result, patients are empowered with easy, 24/7 access to their health information, and providers have the data needed to make decisions in real time.

By replacing Lifespan’s previous departmental systems, Epic spans hospital departments and roles to connect each member of a patient’s care team to one electronic medical record with embedded clinical intelligence. For example, rather than having a separate information system for radiology, emergency, etc., all data for major patient care functions will now be in a centralized system. This not only enables clinical decisions based on the most up-to-date information but supports patient care in the safest, most effective and efficient way.

As part of the Epic implementation, the electronic medical record also will now be available to Lifespan’s affiliated physician practices. All providers caring for a patient will have access to the latest, most accurate patient record, whether the patient is visiting the neurologist, cardiologist, primary care physician or a Lifespan hospital – further improving the quality of patient care, safety and efficiency.

Network Transformation: From the Data Center to the Desktop

Within Lifespan’s Network Services and Telecommunications teams, spearheaded by Director of IS Infrastructure Elaine Palm, implementation of this new system required a total transformation of the existing network infrastructure to provide the best available support and connectivity - which meant that everything needed to change from the core switching architecture in the data centers to each individual user’s desktop.

The Epic EMR system requires high availability for access to data at all times. The previous system was hosted off-site; the new Epic system is being installed on site in Lifespan’s primary data center at Rhode Island Hospital. For redundancy, the Epic system will also exist in Lifespan’s secondary data center. As a result, a high-speed and high-availability data network is needed for access to the primary data center with a separate path required for access to the secondary data center from each desktop. This ensures that Lifespan will never lose the capability to gain access to the critical patient data hosted in the Epic EMR system.

For example, if for any reason the primary data center went down, a person sitting at a desktop in one of the buildings at a Lifespan campus would need that separate path to get to the secondary data center. In order to provide the required access, Lifespan installed new single mode fiber to all of its wiring closets at the Rhode Island Hospital Campus. That single mode fiber has connectivity to both data centers so if the primary path to the main data center fails, the secondary single mode fiber path goes to a separate distribution switch that feeds directly into the second data center.

OSHEAN and Lifespan: Stronger Together

The organization also maintains a sophisticated wide area network (WAN) for its affiliated hospitals to access the two data centers. To carry through the principle of redundancy for high availability, Lifespan is currently in the process of installing a secondary WAN from OSHEAN powered by the Beacon 2.0 network. If the primary WAN were to fail, OSHEAN would provide 1GB connections to each of Lifespan’s hospitals and 10GB connections to each of the two data center locations. In addition, OSHEAN provides a 1GB redundant internet connection at the primary data center and Lifespan is in the process of installing a connection at the secondary data center so they can load balance or act as fail over.

Beyond utilizing OSHEAN’s Beacon 2.0 world-class fiber network, the benefits of the OSHEAN member community continue to be valuable for healthcare technology innovators. Elaine Palm regularly attends key OSHEAN events such as the annual member forum and worked closely with Tim Rue, OSHEAN’s chief technology officer, and its on-site technical team on the implementation of the secondary fiber network.

“With the Epic project and any other project, we follow best practices for hospital network design, which is critical for good patient care,” Palm said. “It has always been valuable to share best practices with other organizations within the OSHEAN community.”

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