Essentia Health is an integrated health system headquartered in Duluth, Minnesota and serves patients in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Idaho. Since inception, the organization has brought together, under one operation, a myriad of health organizations through acquisition and affiliations totaling 15 hospitals and 74 clinics. The strategy allowed Essentia to offer patients greater healthcare resources, including the expertise of 2,000 physicians, a wide range of medical specialties and access to cutting-edge technologies.
Acquisitions and affiliations were occurring at a rapid rate. Essentia was on a fast track to roll out the electronic health record system across the organization. Dennis Smith, Director of Technology Systems, was busy with systems integration, infrastructure consolidations and building information technology services needed to support growth.
Information Security regulations requiring the implementation of administrative, physical and technical safeguards for Protected Health Information (PHI) were also mounting in the healthcare industry. This included compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH), and Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).
To make the environment even more challenging, Essentia Health’s data centers were running out of capacity. The data centers occupied prime locations in hospital and clinic buildings. Plans to retrofit the existing data center locations were complex. Keeping the data centers in a “hot/hot” configuration, while making major changes to electrical and cooling capabilities, would be risky, costly and difficult. There was also the challenge of competing for capital resources against mission critical investments in medical equipment and new or renovated patient care facilities.
“The scenario was complicated. Finding a solution that was cost effective, employed capital wisely, met industry regulations, provided for flexibility and growth, all while creating a strong technical platform for our growing organization was a big job. Essentia needed a partner we could trust and who had the knowledge to help us through this critical decision-making process. Involta truly exceeded our expectations.”
Involta and Essentia worked together to develop a 10-year model of capital and operating costs focused on four primary options:
Involta invited Essentia Health decision makers to its data center facility in Marion, Iowa to get a first-hand look at best practice data center construction, operations and management. “The visit to Marion definitely helped form ideas and raise expectations for what could be accomplished in Duluth,” Smith recounted.
Involta drove a hands-on approach to resolving the business issues highlighted in the modeling. One example was that communication costs were too high in the original planning scenario. Involta resolved the issue by creatively proposing a joint fiber network project in the metro area to dramatically lower costs and increase capabilities. This connectivity allowed Essentia to maintain its dual production “hot/hot” configuration but separate the facilities geographically in the metro area.
Fully assessing the Essentia proposed data center site was critical to the business decision making process. Involta provided objective, fact based information to the management team leading to a decision to lease the facility to Involta providing a second, geographically diverse colocation option for Essentia and other Involta customers. The Involta and Essentia teams created the data, the documents and the plan to communicate effectively with the Essentia executive team. Strategic, well-aligned decisions supporting the business plan was the outcome. Concurrently, the Involta and Essentia technical staff was highly engaged in and supportive of the vision.