St. Joseph’s Health future-proofs its data infrastructure with Pure Storage

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez March 13, 2024
Summary:
New Jersey based hospital and healthcare network, St. Joseph’s Health, was struggling with legacy infrastructure that forced delays and left clinicians and patients waiting. These problems have been alleviated with the introduction of Pure Storage.

healthcare, people, technology and medicine concept - close up of doctor in white coat with stethoscope and tablet pc computer over blue background with charts © Syda Productions - Shutterstock
(© Syda Productions - Shutterstock)

In the healthcare sector, technology delays and unreliable performance are not just an annoyance or a concern for the balance sheet. Ageing infrastructure when running hospitals can mean fewer patients seen in any given timeframe and delays to patient care. Not only this, but healthcare sector as a whole is increasingly moving towards being data-driven, with a key focus being on personalized care and the use of AI to identify illness. With this in mind, the adoption of reliable, efficient and fast technology infrastructure is front of mind for buyers in healthcare organizations across the world. 

St. Joseph’s Healthcare, a New Jersey based hospital and healthcare network, has gone through this process is future-proofing its data infrastructure to improve outcomes for patients. Key to this has been the adoption of Pure Storage, which uses all-flash technology, and has improved St. Joseph’s ability to carry out rapid back-ups, reduce friction in its application performance, and allowed it to introduce new AI tools to speed up the diagnosis of certain illnesses. 

diginomica got the chance to speak with Jesse Fasolo, Head of Technology Infrastructure & Cybersecurity, Information Security Officer at St Joseph's Health, who has overseen much of the upgrade and explained the significance of Pure Storage’s role in the hospital network’s technology strategy. 

Fasolo started with St. Joseph’s back in 2015, where at that point at time the hospital had a legacy infrastructure that he described as being “10 years behind already”. He explained: 

What I identified is that there needed to be a major overhaul of all technology across the enterprise and in the data center.

At that time, St. Joseph relied on storage that spanned across two different geographic locations, using two different storage arrays. And although nine years ago Pure Storage didn’t offer an active-active component, Fasolo could see the potential of all-flash. As a result, he communicated St. Joseph’s needs and asked the vendor to keep him abreast of its roadmap. 

Time passed and Pure Storage introduced capabilities that suited Fasolo’s requirements, leading the vendor and the healthcare network to introduce a proof of concept. Fasolo added: 

Unlike other partners, they came in and helped us set this up. We implemented the proof of concept. At that time, we did a FlashStack Mini, which led me down the path of: ‘this will be the future iteration of our technology within the data center’. 

Pure was one of the only vendors that was willing to actually go through the implementation and prove that their technology will go above and beyond all the competitors at the marketplace. 

Scaling according to needs

The proof of concept was in place for three to six months, during which time Fasolo said St. Joseph’s Health’s expectations were exceeded. As a result, the healthcare netwrok decided to opt for a total storage replacement - thanks to the active-active technology now being provided - and it adopted Pure Storage’s FlashArray//X solution. 

Key to Fasolo’s investment decision was Pure Storage’s Evergreen//Forever subscription, which allows the hospital to scale according to the demands of its infrastructure. He explained: 

Being a healthcare system, we generally don't have massive amounts of funds. What I originally intended was to acquire a solution that I can grow with. And again, at the time, no other competitor offered a solution that allowed you to upgrade, without having to do these big forklift upgrades, which would mean having to go back to capital investment and say: ‘what we purchased three years ago is now defunct, and I need a whole new platform’.

Just that in itself- and the active-active component - were the two drivers that led us to Pure.

Reduced risk

As noted above, much of St. Joseph’s Health’s investment in Pure Storage has been about creating a data infrastructure environment that can support its future needs. The improvements to reliability and performance have been considerate. For instance, in the past the hospital suffered from regular outages. Fasolo said: 

Our old storage platform would be impacted by the smallest thing in the environment. One noisy neighbour, or one system that took a lot of capacity on the storage side, or bandwidth, would destroy performance for everything else across the enterprise. 

When we started throwing things at Pure, it just kept taking it. We put all of our analytics, all of our databases, all our clinical access databases on this…and nothing was impacted. 

One email to all of the employees with the old storage would totally slow down everything and actually cause outages. Coming from the previous provider to Pure, there were no issues. 

In addition to this, St. Joseph’s Health has also added Pure FlashArray//X with Veeam for backup and recovery. This is helping with the organizaiton’s cyber security, whereby in the event of a ransomware attack, the healthcare network can recover instantly using immutable snapshots from Pure SafeMode (this is also enabled on the hospital’s FlashArray//X infrastructure). 

St Joseph’s runs daily backups and snapshots, which are taken every 15 minutes. This has reduced email backups to two hours, down from four days. And if an outage did occur in a data center, then the systems would continue to run regardless. Fasolo said: 

Pure does the snapshot on the backend and then it actually does the backup from the snapshot, versus active running. So there's no impact to production. There's no impact to performance as you're doing that. 

Our backups would go all night and we would have to cancel backups in the morning because of the effect it would have on the legacy system. 

For example, the backup would run till eight o'clock in the morning and nurses and doctors would complain about the slowness. We'd have to stop our backups, we couldn't ever complete them. 

We'd have to start picking and choosing based on the risk of what we wanted to backup in the environment. Flash forward to Pure, once everything had transitioned, all of our environment was able to be backed up within four or five hours. 

And finally, on the technical side, Pure Storage has enabled the hospital to move away from a tiered environment, which included spinning disk, and was leading to performance issues. Fasolo said: 

There was just an astronomical cost and upheaval to implement that [legacy] storage and then to manage and maintain that storage for performance. You needed to move workloads down different tiers, depending on where the performance was in the environment, or if you had a new system. 

There was a constant game of shuffling your environment around to make sure you had constant performance. The idea of all flash, the idea of all high performance, is something that immediately we saw potential in when we started migrating systems to it. 

As we moved systems to Pure and started putting things to the test, there was no impact. There was no impact while we were doing the transition, no impact during the move, during backups, during production. 

Better health outcomes

Despite the technical advantages, of course the main benefit to St. Joseph’s Health has been the improved environment for clinicians and physicians to provide superior care to their patients. 

One example is that Pure Storage is allowing St Joseph’s Health to explore new opportunities for patients that require intensive data workloads, which wouldn’t have been possible on the legacy infrastructure. For instance, the hospital is using Artificial Intelligence in its radiology department to read images, identify anomalies, and make recommendations to specialists, who will evaluate the information. In addition, St Joseph’s is using live data to track revenue trends, such as hospital utilization and patient status. 

But as Fasolo notes, the primary benefit is just the time saved and performance of the systems, enabling clinicians and physiciansto be present and responsive with their patients. He said: 

Physicians and clinical teams really calculate things down to the click, down to the minute or second. And it’s seconds that matter. If a physician is opening up an application, and it's taking a minute or more just to launch, or there's freezing or slowness within the application, that's time to care for the patient that's wasted time. 

It's a delay to patient care and patient experience. Once we transitioned to Pure, every single clinical system. application, email, was performing at its top level. We were seeing substantial time savings for the physicians and clinical teams across the board, because there was no more performance degradation - especially during critical times. 

Commenting on the healthcare network’s overall assessment of its investment in Pure Storage and its new infrastructure, Fasolo concluded: 

It has sustained the environment and increased performance tenfold, across all the clinical teams. There was a noticeable difference. 

The constant management oversight that we had to have on the legacy environment, compared to what we do with Pure…I can almost say that Pure is a hands free management environment. 

It kind of manages itself. It provides you autonomous alerts, it lets you know when the system needs an update, your support team is right there to help you. Nothing is intrusive. It's vastly different from the legacy environments. 

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