Top 3 Benefits of Open, Standards-Based, Server Architecture for Epic EHR

In 2012, Epic added Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) running on x86 servers to its list of supported platforms for its mission critical Electronic Health Record (EHR) database (previously, Epic only supported database software on UNIX servers).

To learn about this solution and key benefits firsthand, I encourage you to register for the upcoming webinar, How TriRivers Health Partners Optimized and Virtualized Its Electronic Records Infrastructure. In this space, however, I will provide an overview of the solution and describe the top three benefits over alternative, RISC-based, database platform architectures.

Epic’s solution for Linux on x86 is virtualized, and subsequently provides the benefits that HIT organizations have come to expect from virtualized infrastructure. Intel and VMware have collaborated closely over the years to ensure that software runs in virtual machines with near-native performance. Barriers that may have prevented some mission critical workloads from being virtualized in the past are reduced or eliminated with each passing generation of Xeon and vSphere (for example, VMware recently announced that the host-level configuration maximum for RAM has doubled from 2TB to 4TB with the introduction of vSphere 5.5).

With this background, here are the top three benefits of an open, standards-based, server architecture for Epic EHR:

Supportability: From 1996 to 2016 (estimated by IDC), the installed base of x86 servers will have increased from 56 percent of the overall server market to 98 percent. Accordingly, the number of administrators qualified to support and maintain these systems has also increased, making it easier to find qualified staff. Furthermore, the “end-user computing” side of the Epic EHR has already moved to x86.  Standardizing on one server architecture can simplify the support model by reducing training and headcount requirements)

Reliability: Not only is RHEL running on x86 a proven platform for hosting mission critical applications, but the Epic solution further improves reliability by virtualizing the infrastructure with VMware vSphere. The solution includes a virtualized cluster of x86 servers running the database (and associated capabilities that enable reporting, disaster recovery, etc). Should one of the hosts fail, advanced vSphere capabilities such as Distributed Resource Scheduling (DRS) and High Availability (HA) will automatically move affected VM’s to another host in the cluster

Flexibility: When there is an ecosystem of vendors/OEMs developing compatible (x86) systems, the end-user (HIT organization) benefits. Competition provides choice and leads to improved quality and reduced cost through economies of scale.

Do any of you have experience yet deploying the Epic database tier on Linux/x86? Please feel free to share your observations and experiences below. You can follow me on Twitter @CGoughPDX.