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Red Hat Enterprise Linux Creates a Robust Foundation for Hospital’s Electronic Medical Record System
June 17, 2008
Customer: Midland Memorial Hospital
Replace an existing proprietary health information system (HIS) with an open-source-based suite of integrated applications to improve quality of patient care while cutting costs.
Moved from proprietary HIS legacy system to an open-source solution based upon Red Hat Enterprise Linux running on HP hardware.
Medsphere’s OpenVista Electronic Health Record (EHR) solution.
Two HP Proliant DL580 G2 servers and one HP ProLiant DL380 server; HP Compaq desktops for client machines.
Founded in 1950 in Midland, Texas, to “make quality healthcare available to all residents of Midland County” regardless of their ability to pay, Midland Memorial Hospital has grown from a 75- to 320-bed facility on three campuses over its nearly 60 years of operation. Funded by private donations, Midland remains the area’s only not-for-profit hospital, and today provides a comprehensive portfolio of health care services for an ever-expanding geographic area that includes communities throughout west Texas as well as southeast New Mexico.
In 2003, Midland Memorial Hospital was given notice by its health information systems (HIS) vendor that the application it had been using for years was being “sunsetted,” or phased out. David Whiles, Director of Information Systems for Midland Memorial Hospital, decided to investigate open source alternatives to proprietary solutions available on the market.
Three things in particular drove Whiles’ decision to investigate open source. First, there was cost: Legacy HIS applications are expensive to purchase and implement, and require a great deal of costly customization before they are truly useful to a healthcare provider like Midland. Second was security: Midland needed a fully integrated system based upon open standards that would seamlessly and safely share information across different functions. Finally, there was the stability issue. Because the HIS was so mission-critical, Whiles required a solution that could give him absolute peace of mind 24×7, 365 days per year.
“Our patient care records are stored in the system, and if the system goes down, it creates a tremendous additional workload on all the physicians and staff members,” said Whiles.
Whiles therefore viewed the vendor’s news as an opportunity rather than a problem. “We saw the chance to dramatically improve the way we worked at the hospital in a way that would make us more efficient as well as contain costs, and – most importantly – improve the quality of the care we can provide to patients,” he said.
After reviewing a number of systems from various vendors, including a mix of proprietary and open-source solution providers, Midland decided upon OpenVista by Medsphere, a commercial open-source suite of applications built on top of a single database using the Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system. Whiles made this choice for a number of reasons. In terms of broad functionality, OpenVista provided Midland with most of the functionality it needed in an EHR. OpenVista was also approximately one-third the cost of implementing equivalent functionality using other, proprietary systems. And, OpenVista and Red Hat Enterprise Linux together provided Whiles with peace of mind that patient records would remain private and protected.
The fact that OpenVista ran on Red Hat Enterprise Linux was a major selling point in its favor. “We’d felt for a number of years that Linux was as robust if not more so than commercial operating systems,” said Whiles. Indeed, he said, he specifically made the decision to go with a Linux rather than Windows-based solution largely for stability. Even more specifically, he wanted a system based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. “Red Hat has done such a fantastic job of commercializing and maturing the operating system that we felt very confident about any solution built on top of it,” he said.
With the help of HP and Medsphere, Whiles completed a clustered Red Hat Enterprise Linux-based Medsphere implementation that ran on two HP Proliant DL580 G2 servers and one HP ProLiant DL380 server. He also purchased HP Compaq Desktop PCs to allow users to access the Medsphere system.
Whiles has been “extremely satisfied” with the new EHR and its relatred reliability. “Our Windows servers go down two or three times a year,” said Whiles. “In the years we’ve had Red Hat Enterprise Linux in place, we have never had an unanticipated failure.”
Midland’s ability to scale as the organization grows has also been well supported. “We’ve continuously enhanced and expanded and added onto our system, and no matter what additional loads we’ve put on it, Red Hat Enterprise Linux can handle it,” said Whiles. And the ease of use has been particularly welcome after the maintenance-intensive legacy system that Whiles replaced. “The thing about Red Hat Enterprise Linux is that you install it, and it just goes,” he said. “It’s the easiest operating system in the world.”
“Red Hat continues to make an incredibly valuable contribution to the technology industry by putting its tremendous resources behind Linux and commercializing it for enterprise use,” said Whiles. “I’ve been a Linux enthusiast for years, and I absolutely trust my organization’s well-being to Red Hat.”