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08/28/2018 Jennifer Pauly IT security

Managing data at MSK

Imagine all the data at MSK – every email ever sent through an MSK account, every file saved, every patient record created. Imagine they are shimmering, iridescent bubbles drifting in the air above our heads. These bubbles emerge from computers, tablets, phones – anything with a screen – and wind their way down halls, from operating rooms to labs, from office to office, from MSK out to the world.

Each piece of data represents all that our team members have ever produced, discovered, created or shared in digital form. They are beautiful bubbles, rich with possibility. Now imagine a giant hose descending on MSK and sucking every single bubble into a black hole, never to be seen again. What then?

This is the stuff of nightmares for people like Patrick Carragee, Vice President of Information Technology. The threat of fire, flood, power outage or some other disaster shutting down MSK's technology fills him with dread. And it's one of the reasons that an entire floor – 50,000 square feet – at MSK Monmouth in New Jersey, is the site of the new Monmouth Data Center, now the center of MSK's digital life.

Monmouth, which opened in 2016, serves as MSK's primary production data center for all Tier 1 and Tier 2 data – the most critical data generated at MSK, which typically involves patient care. The data will be relocated over the next few years from the New Jersey Data Center in Lyndhurst to Monmouth. The site at Lyndhurst will operate as the data center for lesser tier systems and non-production data, including all test, development, and training environments for critical clinical, research and business systems. It will also provide an all-important back-up system to Monmouth.

"It was clear after Hurricane Sandy that we needed to upgrade our data center," says Patrick, remembering the epic storm that struck the east coast in 2012. "At Lyndhurst, the water came within inches of the generator. Lyndhurst is in a hundred-year flood zone – and the hundred-year flood hit in 2012."

Monmouth was designed with disaster in mind. It sits approximately one hundred feet above sea level and has two generators, providing a safer environment for MSK's data. "The infrastructure at Monmouth is 100 percent redundant," says Patrick. In other words, every piece of equipment has a double so there's always a back up.

More Space, Please

In addition to worries about natural disasters, there was another pressing concern: The Lyndhurst data center was running out of space.

"We've added all this data — new critical systems, new lab systems — and made upgrades to CIS (Clinical Information System), the revenue management system, and more, and Lyndhurst couldn't handle it all," says Dave Barry, Director of New Jersey Data Centers. "Plus, we never purge patient data. So over time it starts to take up a lot of space. With the addition of Monmouth, we now have the room we need for the next 10-15 years."

CIS is just one example of the wealth of data integral to providing patient care that is collected and stored every day at MSK. Thanks to Information Systems, and now with an assist from the Monmouth Data Center, CIS encompasses:

Electronic Order Entry, including diagnostic, treatment, medication and communication orders

Med Administration Tracking, offering timeframes for administering medications and tracking the clinicians who are administering

Electronic Clinical Documentation, which features online forms recreating paper documents and online notes to track patient information

Online review of diagnostic results, including laboratory, radiology, pathology and cardiac-related results

An internal communication platform for sharing clinical information between users

The tracking of patient clinical information such as allergens, infection control values, immunization history, etc.

Monica Chakradeo worked at the New Jersey Data Center for 15 years and is the current Director of the Monmouth Data Center.

"Most major healthcare companies have more than one data center," she says. "The idea is that if something happens to one, you should be able to run with the other with a minimum of disruption to patient care."

Patricia Skarulis, Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President, Information Systems, echoes that statement. "The information technology systems we have in place keep MSK running and support the critical work of our clinicians and researchers," she says. "Protecting those systems and ensuring their long-term viability, as we have done with the addition of the Monmouth Data Center, is fundamental to the mission of MSK."

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