Silver Cross Hospital's recently opened data center puts it at the forefront of an emerging healthcare trend: Combining construction of new hospitals with new data centers to offer the latest in technology and accommodate an explosion in applications and patient data—not just documents, but images and videos.

With the February, 2012 opening of its 600,000 sq ft, $370 million medical complex with outpatient center, medical service building, and hospital, the New Lenox IL, community hospital needed to update and expand its aging data resources, which were already operating at capacity. With its new 2,450-sq-ft data center, 50 percent larger than its existing one, patients and staff are already enjoying the benefits of new technology.

Silver Cross became one of the first hospitals to install patient tracking software so families know where a patient is at all times. New communication equipment supports wireless voice and data networks throughout the hospital, providing access to patients and their families while freeing clinicians to use phones and computers where needed instead of based on location. Also, medical telemetry enables remote monitoring of patient vital signs. "From Day 1, the new capabilities have helped us improve care and have helped our medical staff to be more effective," says Kevin Lane, Silver Cross vice president and chief information officer.

Other leaders, including OSF's new Children's Hospital of Illinois in Peoria and the soon-to-open Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, have combined new data centers with new medical facilities. Together, they are laying a technology foundation for the emerging era in health care that will be dominated by electronic patient records and new care delivery approaches that require real-time coordination and information exchange among multiple providers, payers, patients, and locations.

"State-of-the-art data centers will become as essential to new health care construction as private patient rooms with flat-screen televisions," says Greg Werner, vice president and general manager for Mortenson Construction, a leader in both hospital and data center construction. Mortenson has built more than $4.5 billion in health care projects in the past 10 years, including Silver Cross and Lurie Children's, with partner Power Construction, which is due to open in early June. It has also built more than 11 million sq ft of data center / mission critical space nationwide totaling more than $1.1 billion.   

Given the escalating IT demands, growth of bigger and better health care data centers is only likely to strengthen. In a fall, 2011 survey by Mortenson of 90 data center and facilities experts at the 7x24 Exchange Conference, 92 percent of respondents ranked healthcare as the industry with the greatest need for new data centers in the next five years.