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Virtualization of clinical applications

by Matthew Bishop, Enterprise Solutions Architect, UnityPoint Health | October 23, 2014
From the September 2014 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Data from Microsoft Performance Monitor demonstrated our servers were typically running at 60 to 70 percent during peak loads. After the switch to the virtual machine, our processing dropped to just 20 percent at peak.

The virtualized environment also provided better network load balancers. With our own network switch within the Citrix NetScaler application delivery controller we had an independent configuration that didn’t have to compete with other users.

The move allowed us to upgrade to Windows 2008 allowing us to achieve a dramatic improvement in performance. These accelerated standards can be attributed not just to an improved operating system, but also to better hardware in the virtualized environment. We went from individual one gigabit network connections to a large virtual machine server farm with shared 30 gigabytes of bandwidth and a ten gigabit mix on the application server network cards.

We saw these improvements in our performance testing throughout the conversion process. Processor, network and disk queues demonstrated that while a large numbers of operations were waiting, on the virtual side, there were no operations queued. With this experience, we started to virtualize other applications to achieve the same kind of performance benefits. These solutions included dictation voice recognition systems and qualitative intelligence and communication systems (QICS); our workflow and communication solution.

During this process we also added a browser-agnostic viewer that allows physicians access from a variety of mobile devices. With the addition of an Enterprise Image Repository we were able to achieve a vendor neutral archive that effectively met the needs of our growing affiliate health systems.

For UnityPoint Health, moving into the unfamiliar territory of creating a virtual environment for imaging and other applications was more than worth it. As the number of scans
has grown from 800,000 to more than 1.2 million and rising, the system has continued to exceed our expectations. The results included both greatly improved performance coupled with a significant reduction in costs.

About the author: Matthew Bishop is Enterprise Solutions Architect at UnityPoint Health. Its network includes 17 UnityPoint Health Hospitals and 15 community network hospitals.

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