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ShawnWioraBy: Shawn Wiora, CIO, Creative Solutions in HealthCare

When you work as a CIO, you face a lot of challenges. When you work as a CIO in the healthcare industry, you face even more. Working at Creative Solutions in HealthCare on an award-winning IT team is an amazing opportunity but with more than 49 skilled nursing facilities and a staff of 6,000 employees, it’s definitely not without its challenges. In fact, just making sure you’re in compliance with government regulations is a job unto itself.

After a few years of rapid growth, our company’s on-premises environment (which we self-hosted in a co-location facility) was no longer able to fully support critical applications and services. We were experiencing application outages as well as problems with back end infrastructure that were impacting Active Directory and other services. The limitations of our existing environment at Creative Solutions in HealthCare became even clearer when we started planning an infrastructure update to meet HIPAA and other mandated requirements.

After crunching the numbers, we realized we were looking at an additional $15,000 investment in hardware alone. At that point, we decided to simultaneously migrate to a virtualized environment while lifting the core IT infrastructure to the cloud. Doing so allowed us to build the infrastructure needed to improve application uptime, host backend services, comply with HIPAA regulations, the HITECH Act, and the NIST framework.

We spent an enormous amount of time researching various options and looking at which provider of cloud-based solutions had the best value in the marketplace. We didn’t want to make a quick decision. When you operate in an all physical environment and move to a virtual one for the first time you want to make sure you do it right. We looked at several different factors including the reliability, the speed at which we could get up and running, the organization behind it, the efficiencies that would be derived, the backup capabilities, the support after the implementation, and the support during the implementation. On all these key points, the VMware vCloud Hybrid Service kept bubbling up to the top but, since we were a Microsoft shop, we thought we should give Azure a try.

Early on we discovered that the Microsoft solutions we needed were not supported in Microsoft’s own cloud. In addition to that, the support solutions we did receive from the pilot project quickly told us that it wasn’t going to be the right fit. That’s when we decided to go with VMware’s vCloud Hybrid Service, and I’m so glad we did.

The team at VMware understood our timeline, our project, and the applications that we wanted to move to the cloud. One of the first things we noticed about working with VMware is the flexibility they offer. They allowed us to ramp up so that we didn’t have to make a big investment for our initial workload, plus they allowed us to go beyond the trial period just to make sure we were happy with the solution—that’s my idea of great service. The vCloud Air team had the best onboarding process for any IT project that I’ve been involved with in the last 20 years.

Running on vCloud Air allowed Creative Solutions in HealthCare to implement the technology required for us to be in compliance with HIPAA and other healthcare regulations. Before moving to vCloud Air, we had policies in place, but we didn’t have the infrastructure to support them. With vCloud Air, we’ve deployed technical controls on our core infrastructure and anti-virus and other solutions in a holistic approach to security that allows us to comply with regulations and achieve HIPAA certification, which is critical to our ongoing business success.

A critical benefit of the EHR system is improved digital access to patient information using secure computers and wall kiosks. One facility recently recorded more than 40,000 entries in the system in just one day without incident. As a result of the move to vCloud Air, business units within the company have actually been eager to work with the IT department. Running on vCloud Air has reduced standard deployment from two months to two days! When we look at where our IT department is now compared to two years ago, all of our key performance indicators, including patient satisfaction and employee morale and retention, have gone up.

Our IT department is about 40 people. If we didn’t have the tremendous resources from VMware, there’s no way the project would have been as successful as it was. I would have had to hire 12 more people with the expertise needed to get this project done. Running on vCloud Air has reduced our costs by one-third. Instead of spending $10,000 on a base server, we can spin up the same exact server and put it in vCloud Air for pennies on the dollar. The return on our investment has been through the roof.

The opportunity to take on challenges was one of reasons I joined Creative Solutions in HealthCare—and to my satisfaction it’s been one opportunity after the next. The important thing about opportunities, though, is that you have to be ready when they show up. Now that we’ve got VMware on our side, our IT team is empowered and prepared for any amount of company growth.

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