“Digital transformation is all about solving business problems using digital tools, so something as simple as modernizing our backup enables us to focus on adding value to the business.”
Children’s Mercy deployed replaced its legacy tape backup environment using NetApp AltaVault with Microsoft Azure to optimize operations and take its first steps toward a hybrid cloud future.
Abstract (~50 words)
Digital transformation is top of mind for IT leaders everywhere, but few are as passionate or outspoken as David Chou, VP, CIO, and CDO of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. Under Chou’s leadership, Children’s Mercy is breaking down silos through a bold hybrid cloud strategy that puts data at the center of operations. The hospital took its first step on the journey to becoming cloud-first by modernizing its massive tape backup system and moving data to the cloud.
Children’s Mercy is a standalone pediatric hospital in Kansas City that provides comprehensive care for patients from birth to age 21. It is consistently ranked among the leading children’s hospitals in the U.S., attracting patients from across the country and around the world.
Its mission is to take care of all children, regardless of their family’s ability to pay. Every year, the hospital spends about $120 million providing uncompensated care for children whose families otherwise would not be able to afford it.
“In an economy where reimbursement is declining, our mission is even more important,” says Chou. “Digital transformation is critical to our ability to deliver on that mission. For any company to survive in the world, they have to think digital first.”
Chou believes that all technology leaders—from healthcare to retail—must figure out how to unleash their data to drive disruption or risk being disrupted. His passion has helped position Children’s Mercy as a leader in healthcare’s digital transformation.
“We’re striving to be a data-driven organization,” says Chou. “We’re using data to improve preventive care, lower readmittance rates, eliminate unnecessary procedures, and return the true cost of providing care for patients.”
Becoming Data Driven
Although the hospital is still early in its journey, its efforts are already revolutionizing care and saving lives. Here’s just one example. For the thousands of babies born with single-ventricle heart disease, the weeks between their first and second surgeries are perhaps the most important weeks of their lives. During this time, these babies are most vulnerable to infection, and one in five won’t make it to the second surgery. Children’s Mercy has changed the equation with its innovative CHAMP monitoring application, which allows parents to continuously log a baby’s vitals from a hospital-provided tablet. That data is sent to the Microsoft Azure Cloud, where algorithms track trends and alert hospital teams to at risk patients so that they can take immediate action. Since Children’s Mercy implemented CHAMP in 2014, it has not lost a single patient with single-ventricle heart disease.
According to Chou, CHAMP’s inspiring success is just the tip of the iceberg. His ultimate goal is to create what he calls a “retail-like” experience that will enable the hospital to use data to predict patient needs and provide a better experience. Chou has issued a cloud-first mandate to gain new insights by breaking down data silos and bringing departments together with a single source of truth. From his first day on the job, Chou knew that the hospital’s cloud journey needed to start with backup.\
Backup: A First Step to the Cloud
“On my very first day, I took a tour of the facilities and saw the massive amount of tape backups,” says Chou. “Digital transformation is all about solving business problems using digital tools, so something as simple as modernizing our backup enables us to focus on adding value to the business.”
Chou quickly identified the Azure Cloud as his backup target. The hospital already had an enterprise agreement with Microsoft because of the company’s above-and-beyond support and early adoption of HIPAA business associate agreements. When it came time to integrate Azure as part of its hybrid cloud strategy around data protection, Chou turned to NetApp for help.
Today, tape is a relic of the past. Two NetApp AltaVault appliances are the sole targets for the hospital’s entire enterprise workload. Data is backed up using the hospital’s existing Veritas Netbackup software to AltaVault, where it is deduplicated and compressed by 10 times or more before being transferred to the Azure Cloud. Each AltaVault appliance stores 90 days of backups locally for fast recovery of recent information.
By moving data to the cloud, AltaVault modernized the hospital’s backup environment—automating and simplifying backup, recovery, and data retention strategies. “Moving our backup to the cloud has been transformational for us,” says Chou. “It allows my team of engineers to work at the highest level of their capabilities and not worry about daily backups or tape management.”
Freeing IT Staff
With the new solution, the hospital has been able to reduce backup times by 60% or better. One particularly onerous 24-hour backup now takes just 2.5 hours, freeing Chou’s staff from round-the-clock monitoring. By eliminating tape, Chou’s staff has been able to save more than 500 hours of administration per month.
“We used to have a team of six people managing backups at night. Now we can reassign them to the help desk, where they provide more value to the business,” explains Chou. “At night, something as simple as a computer going down can really slow down our clinical operations. Having more staff available has been a big help to our hospital staff.”
Improving IT Security
With the hospital’s previous tape solution, it could take up to 24-36 hours to restore data because the tape first had to be retrieved from offsite storage. Now the hospital can recover data from any point in time in less than an hour. With cyberattacks becoming more common and more sophisticated, Chou believes that having a fast, reliable backup and recovery solution plays an increasingly important role in IT security.
“Your backup and recovery solution won’t protect you from cyberattacks,” he says, “but it is a big component in how you recover from one. Anytime you hear ‘ransomware,’ you need to ask: How good is your backup? And how quickly can you restore from that backup?”
Accelerating Digital Transformation
For Children’s Mercy, modernizing its backup and recovery solution with the cloud is just the first step in a long journey toward digital transformation.
“We are really shifting the cultural mindset in IT toward doing things better, faster, and cheaper,” says Chou. “Backup may not seem like the most exciting place to start, but the speed of our solution is accelerating our journey towards being digital.”
Link to the webcast here