Healthcare is in the midst of a transformation to an increasingly technology-driven industry--an industry that's only going to become even more dependent on data and information technology, said Hamilton Espinosa, healthcare core market leader at DPR Construction. 
 
That push is coming from three different directions: integration of technology and systems, adoption of electronic health records, and exploration of population health management, Espinosa shared during the session "Convergence of IT in Healthcare: One Size Does Not Fit All" at the ASHE PDC Summit. 
 
In order to keep all of these systems running and information safely stored, health organizations across the country are turning to the creation of data centers, safe, secure locations with back-up power and the ability to withstand a disaster. 
 
However, depending on what's required by an organization, the initiative can require a sizable investment in capital, with owners and their project teams charged with determining the best option based upon how much risk can be managed, what experts are needed, and whether warehousing or keeping data in-house is more appropriate. 
 
Mark Thompson, mission critical core market leader at DPR, offered a few options organizations might consider, including plenty of leasing options like cloud storage, collocation in a shared facility, or management by a wholesale provider. 
 
When it comes to capital improvement projects, options include new construction, renovation of an existing data center, or repurposing space that already offers the required electrical and cooling systems.
 
New construction, Thompson said, may be more attractive for a large system with available real estate and a staff that's comfortable with operations. For smaller systems, an added concern may be whether a standalone facility is warranted at all--the math may show that a wholesale contract makes more sense. 
 
For renovated spaces, Thompson warned challenges arise with legacy systems and equipment that can't be taken offline and moved, while there's an overall risk of having to take down the entire data center to complete the project. However, a perk is avoiding a real estate purchase, something that can also be done by repurposing an appropriate space on a campus that doesn't bring with it the complications of a data center renovation.
 
Brian Oylear, senior project manager for Kaiser Permanente's national functions and shared services, joined the DPR team to discuss his system's initiatives. Even just five to 10 years ago, he said, the lens used to plan for technology didn't anticipate the systems in place today, how close technology is to patients, and how the physical care environment is enhanced by technology. "The importance around data centers is ever more present," he said.
 
Using the example of an X-ray, Oylear described how years ago the scan would end up in a hospital's filing cabinet, but now there's a digital image instead, requiring a place to store it and all the other data captured by facilities, with enough power to support the systems tied back to that data, from mobile apps to online test results. 
 
The approach for Kaiser, he said, has been to adopt all of the options available, from cloud storage to building new centers. He stressed the need for leadership to be involved in the decision-making process, working with a collaborative team to identify risks and rewards, and to always factor the total cost of ownership for all capital projects.