Editor’s note: Story written by Jorge Gomez, IACH Public Affairs Office
Digital technologies have changed every aspect of our lives, a hospital becomes obsolete if it can’t support the technological demands of today’s modern healthcare. On the weekend of July 23-24, a team of information technology specialists animated the new Irwin Army Community Hospital after transplanting the digital heart from the old hospital into the new one.
Several months of collaborative efforts by IT specialists from IACH, Health Facility Planning Agency, Regional Health Command – Central (Provisional), Defense Health Agency, General Dynamics Information Technology and the Healthcare Relocation Team culminated in standing up the data center at the new hospital on 650 Huebner Road.
During the first 10 hours the team relocated and installed about 60 hardware units into new enclosures. Experts could be seen consulting system documentation to ensure specific cables were connecting to specific ports.
When feasible they consulted images from their smartphones to visually guide the cabling.
“It’s not business as usual if you see an expert consulting documentation,” said Dave Dougherty, IACH’s Information Management Division chief. “In the 15 years I have worked in IT, I have never experienced (data center) relocation on this scale. Bringing together all this hardware to make a new hospital work requires subject matter experts for each of the distinct systems we use in patient care.”
To control the confusion that comes from handling hundreds of cables, two IMD specialists took about six weeks labeling cables and diagramming the hardware in the new environment. They documented with exactness not only the physical but the logical (or internal) relations that make various systems communicate with each other.
“Nothing was taken for granted,” said Dougherty. “We couldn’t just assume the systems would work as usual in a new environment.”
Installing the hardware components turned out to be the easy part. Troubleshooting systems with multiple processes led members of the team to continuously work overnight.
Shaun O’Leary, an IACH network manager, compared the troubleshooting experience to a mechanic who first tries to locate and understand a problem.
“It was critical to make one (troubleshoot) change at a time. We couldn’t have everyone trying to make changes on their own,” O’Leary said.
Communication between all involved sustained a thorough approach to what could have become uncontrolled chaos.
“We had excellent communication,” O’Leary said. “When we encountered a problem that was not well understood, we all stayed together.”
The team was resolute in activating the data center before the start of outpatient care on Monday morning.
“There was a sensitivity to the hospital’s mission,” O’Leary said. “We are not clinical (staff), but we know what our systems do and how they support the mission.”
Lt. Col. Robert Schultz, Health Facility Program Office-Central, who has overseen relocation projects for Army hospitals, said that it’s normal for issues to arise in a project of this magnitude.
“But the teamwork and complimentary efforts amongst the group, working nonstop throughout the night and early morning hours resulted in the relocation of 11 systems, including multiple patient care applications,” said Schultz. “Most importantly, it resulted in very little impact to patient care. The collaborative and persistent efforts of the relocation team were phenomenal.”
Now that patient care applications are supported from 650 Huebner Road, hospital staff are launching the final sequence to occupy the new hospital and deliver care in October.
“The operational rates for our network systems are around 99 percent. There is so much happening behind scenes that we take for granted. I am very proud of our team for what they have done and what they will continue to do,” Col. John Melton, IACH Commander said.
In the meantime, patients who call to fill a prescription or cancel an appointment won’t detect a difference. And that’s precisely what the IT team worked to achieve — resuming patient care services as if nothing happened.