Case Study

Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital

Stratus® ftServer® system helps remote Alaska hospital achieve continuous availability of critical systems and data

Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital (SSMH) in Barrow, Alaska, the primary healthcare facility for the North Slope region, serves a population spanning an area larger than Washington State. Operated by the Arctic Slope Native Association (ASNA) and accredited by The Joint Commission, this 14-bed general medical facility ranks among the top hospitals nationwide for quality of service and patient safety standards. A 24/7/365 facility with 225 employees, SSMH provides outpatient, inpatient and emergency care for newborn through elderly patients, as well as a broad range of ob/gyn, dental, optometry, pharmacy, laboratory, audiology, physical therapy, respiratory therapy, radiology and other specialty clinic services.

Supporting Self-Sufficiency In Remote Arctic Slope Location

Located in the northernmost city in the U.S., SSMH faces a unique set of operating challenges. The region it serves is underlain by continuous permafrost and the average temperature is 45° F in the summer and –30° F in the winter.

Due to its remote location within the Arctic Circle the hospital must be far more self-sufficient than the typical medical facility. Standard procedures like just-in-time ordering simply do not apply; depending on weather conditions, overnight deliveries can take as long as a week and there are no major retail stores nearby from which to buy equipment, parts, and supplies at a moment’s notice. As a result, the hospital must build redundancy, simplicity and efficiency into all aspects of its operations, including its information systems, in order to ensure business continuity and consistently high-quality patient care.

Quick Facts

Problem

  • Remote Alaska hospital needed a continuous availability solution for its RPMS applications and EHR database

Solution

  • The Stratus ftServer 2600 system’s fault-tolerant architecture and built-in virtualization protect the hospital’s critical systems against unplanned downtime and data loss

Results

  • With the ftServer system running its virtualized clinical and administrative applications, SSMH has been able to:
  • Keep its RPMS applications and EHR database up and running—all the time
  • Earn Joint Commission accreditation and receive CMS incentive funding for meaningful use
  • Help hospital staff deliver quality care with continuous access to systems and data

Opening Up Opportunities for Improvement

In 2013, SSMH moved into a newly constructed, modern facility—four times the size of the original hospital—in order to better serve the people of the North Slope. In preparation for the move, SSMH’s Information Services team decided to refresh the hospital’s computing infrastructure by replacing its exist­ing Dell servers and virtualizing its mission-critical clinical and administrative applications, including the Indian Health Service’s (IHS) Resource and Patient Management System (RPMS) and the Electronic Health Record (EHR) database, which runs on an Intersystems Ensemble platform. Given the hospital’s need for self-sufficiency and always-on computing, continuous availability was a key criterion in the new server selection process.

“If our clinical applications and EHR database go down, our medical staff has to revert back to paper and pencil, which makes it difficult to do the standard checks and audits necessary to ensure quality patient care.” explains Adam Smith, Information Services Director at SSMH. “We also have to consider the financial cost of downtime, which adds up to about $15,000 per hour. Given the potential consequences, unplanned downtime is simply not an option for us.”

“If our clinical applications and EHR database go down, our medical staff has to revert back to paper and pencil, which makes it difficult to do the standard checks and audits necessary to ensure quality patient care.”
Adam Smith
Information Services Director
Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital

Selecting the Best-Fit High Availability Option

After researching various high availability options, SSMH decided to implement the Stratus® ftServer® 2600 system. Powered by the quad-core Intel® Xeon® processor and Intel QuickPath® Architecture, the fault-tolerant ftServer 2600 runs Microsoft® Windows Server® and provides built-in virtualization, making it an ideal solution for protecting SSMH’s critical applications against downtime and data loss.

Fully redundant server technology predicts and prevents downtime by withstanding and resolving issues that typically result in failover, data loss, and virtual-machine and application restarts. 24/7/365 proactive availability management services work in concert with ftServer’s software and hardware to further ensure industry-leading availability levels. At the same time, the ftServer system eliminates the high costs and operational complexity inherent in clusters or standby systems, enabling the hospital to achieve continuous availability without having to modify applications or perform the failover scripting and repeated testing required to make applications cluster aware.

“I didn’t want to rely on approaches like shadowing and clustering to achieve high availability,” adds Smith. “In my experience, those solutions are complex to set up and difficult to maintain. The Stratus ftServer system doesn’t require a lot of maintenance and upkeep; it just does what it’s supposed to do: deliver continuous availability.”

Keeping Critical Applications Up and Running— All the Time

Since installing the ftServer 2600 system, SSMH has experienced no unplanned downtime; the hospital staff has enjoyed continuous access to the clinical and administrative applications it needs to deliver quality patient care and keep administrative functions running smoothly. The ftServer system’s purpose-built fault-tolerant hardware, Automated Uptime Layer™ software, and proactive 24/7/365 proactive availability management services combine to provide a highly reliable always-on solution unmatched by conventional servers or low-end clusters.

“Once we installed the ftServer system and moved our applications over, we haven’t really had to do anything with it,” comments Smith. Outside of doing reboots and updates from a Microsoft standpoint, it really has been invisible. ftServer is the ‘silent business partner’ that keeps our systems up and running on the back end.”

“The Stratus ftServer system doesn’t require a lot of maintenance and upkeep; it just does what it’s supposed to do: deliver continuous availability.”
Adam Smith
Information Services Director
Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital

Meeting Regulatory and Meaningful Use Requirements

In the heavily regulated healthcare industry, high availability is key to compliance. To maintain Joint Commission accredita­tion and certification SSMH is subject to rigorous audits of its RPMS and EHR systems as well as key policies and procedures, including those related to IT system availability, backup and data retention. The ftServer system is enabling SSMH to achieve the high levels of system availability needed to meet these standards and stay compliant.

In addition, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) offers incentive payments to eligible critical access hospitals that demonstrate meaningful use of EHR by meeting specific criteria, including a minimum availability standard. “Moving forward, the hospital must meet Meaningful Use 2.0 objectives to continue receiving incentive funding from CMS,” adds Smith. “Having the ftServer system in place will help us hit, if not beat, those objectives.”

“Quite honestly, the ftServer system does everything Stratus said it would do and there isn’t any tweaking or modifying required. It just works.”
Adam Smith
Information Services Director
Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital

Exceeding Expectations for High Availability and Operational Simplicity

Based on SSMH’s satisfaction with the Stratus solution to date, Smith would consider the ftServer system for running other critical applications with high availability requirements that the hospital may implement in the future.

“A lot of vendors out there tend to over-promise and under-deliver,” concludes Smith. “Quite honestly, the ftServer system does everything Stratus said it would do and there isn’t any tweaking or modifying required. It just works.”

About Stratus Technologies

In today’s always-on world, applications run under increasingly demanding circumstances. With these escalating demands comes greater pressure to prevent even the smallest amount of application downtime. Companies are responding to this need for always-on solutions by searching for technologies that either conform to or enhance their current IT infrastructures.

Stratus Technologies’ solutions enable rapid deployment of always-on infrastructures, from enterprise servers to clouds, without any changes to your applications. Stratus products (software and servers) combined with Stratus people, enable customers to prevent downtime before it occurs, ensuring uninterrupted 24/7/365 performance of essential business operations.

Related Assets

Scroll to Top