With new hospitals come new data centers

By Bernie Monegain
10:13 AM

Silver Cross Hospital’s recently opened data center puts it at the forefront of an emerging healthcare trend, according to Mortensen Construction, a company with hospital projects across the country. Combining construction of new hospitals with new data centers is becoming more common, according to company executives.

The trend is driven, they say, by the need to accommodate an explosion in applications and patient data – not only documents, but also images and videos.
With the February, 2012 opening of its 600,000 square foot, $370 million medical complex with outpatient center, medical service building and hospital, Silver Cross Hospital, a 289-room facility in New Lenox, Ill., needed to update and expand its aging data resources, which were already operating at capacity. So, the project also included a new 2,450 square-foot data center, 50 percent larger than its existing one.
Silver Cross also became one of the first hospitals to install patient tracking software so families know where a patient is at all times. New communication equipment supports wireless voice and data networks throughout the hospital, providing access to patients and their families while freeing clinicians to use phones and computers where needed instead of based on location. Also, medical telemetry enables remote monitoring of patient vital signs.

“From day one, the new capabilities have helped us improve care and have helped our medical staff to be more effective,” said Kevin Lane, Silver Cross vice president and CIO.
Other hospitals, including OSF HealthCare’s new Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria and the soon-to-open Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, have combined new data centers with new medical facilities. As Mortenson executives see it, the hospitals are establishing a technology foundation for the emerging era in healthcare that will be dominated by electronic health records and new care delivery approaches that require real-time coordination and information exchange among multiple providers, payers, patients and locations.
“State-of-the-art data centers will become as essential to new healthcare construction as private patient rooms with flat-screen televisions,” said Greg Werner, Chicago office head for Mortenson Construction. Mortenson has built more than $4.5 billion in healthcare projects in the past 10 years, according to Werner, including Silver Cross and Lurie Children’s, with partner Power Construction. It has also built more than 11 million square feet of data centers – mission-critical space – nationwide, totaling more than $1.1 billion. 
Given the escalating IT demands, growth of bigger and better healthcare data centers is only likely to strengthen, Werner said. In a fall, 2011 survey by Mortenson of 90 data center and facilities experts at the 7x24 Exchange Conference, 92 percent of respondents ranked healthcare as the industry with the greatest need for new data centers in the next five years.