Healthcare Industry Computer Network Systems
The healthcare industry is going through tremendous change due to the automation of patient care, causing huge impacts on IT organizations. The entire system managing the interaction between healthcare professionals and patients is dramatically evolving, and will completely impact the way a hospital does business.
Instead of tracking patients with a file folder and a clip board, many hospitals and clinics are being required to adopt the use of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). A fully implemented EMR system allows electronic storage, retrieval, and modification of patient information, allowing departments within the health organization to collaborate when providing care. In hospitals and clinics, these federally backed (in the United States and Canada) EMR systems will replace hundreds of different applications used by physicians, radiology personnel, and even hospital administration.There is tremendous pressure on IT departments to implement and support EMRsystems, allowing hospitals and clinics to take advantage of incentive programs and stimulus money.
Radiology departments are doing away with old film-based equipment and are now using Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) to electronically store, display, and transfer large digital images to any department or organization that may need them. Clinics are trending toward software as a service (SaaS) and remote hosting services to support these patient systems, rather than suffering the expense of bringing them in-house.
Mobility continues to trend upward in healthcare, as doctors make use of tablet devices at the bedside to access Computerized Physician Order Entry systems (CPOE). These orders are communicated over thenetwork to the medical staff in other departments, such as radiology, giving them treatment instructions on a specific patient. After these large images are captured, they are stored and made available for analysis by the physician, even at the bedside.
Historically, few healthcare organizations have employed a team of highly capable network engineers to provide IT services, simply because they have not been necessary. Now, the whole public health system is being digitally tied together, putting a greater strain on the network than ever before. Hospitals will have a tremendous need for experienced IT engineers to implement and support the increase in data volume and security requirements of EMR systems. These engineers will need to understand the healthcare process and business needs in addition to the technology.
With the implementation of EMR regulations, some hospitals and clinics will go out of business due to the fact that they cannot afford to meet compliance. This will result in major hospital mergers which will have huge impacts on IT engineers as they try to combine separate patient tracking systems, while doing it with zero downtime. Access to critical EMR and CPOE systems will be required from all corners of the hospital, as well as to affiliate organizations over the WAN. Traffic volume on hospital networks will continue to rise to new heights, with network engineers scrambling to ensure the network infrastructure can keep pace.
Application performance problems suffered by the front office, back office, or bedside will become more than just an inconvenience; they could be life-threatening. This means that engineers will need to be more than reactive troubleshooters. They will need to proactively monitor the system and take action on performance degradation before it impacts the physicians and patient care.
If a healthcare IT organization does not make the changes necessary to support EMR and CPOE, they will not survive the next several years. In manyhospitals, implementing the EMR system in-house will require an overhaul on the network infrastructure, data warehousing, and application servers. Rather than take on this massive expense, some hospitals are considering the use of hybrid or private cloud services to host the EMR system. Regardless of how the service is hosted, digitizing patient data and making it secure and accessible for healthcare providers is a daunting.. How will data be merged during a hospital acquisition? What affiliate organizations outside the hospital will need access to patient data? How will IT share this data while staying in compliance with security regulations? Is the infrastructure ready for a huge spike in traffic load? If a hospital or clinic is suffering performance problems, this will impact the ability for physicians to provide efficient patient care, which can cause patients to go elsewhere and result is a loss of revenue for the hospital.
On the wireless side, hospitals have long been front-runners in supporting tablet and other wireless devices. However, as these are used by physicians and nurses to drive EMR, CPOE systems and for basic patient care, the increased data volume and security requirements will strain the wireless infrastructure, pushing it to its limits in throughput and coverage. This will especially be the case when large medical images such as MRI scans and X-Rays are accessed from the bedside. With the influx of patient devices such as iPads and smart phones, IT organizations will need to consider how they can provide guest access while maintaining bandwidth for critical hospital equipment.
Healthcare Industry Computer Network Best Practices
Healthcare IT needs to maintain uptime and performance for both the network and applications through these major healthcare reforms. The best way to do that is to ensure maximum visibility in as many touch points on the network as possible, and responding to issues and performance threats before they impact complex systems. For the in-house servers orcloud services supporting EMR and CPOE, automated application analysis with end user response time statistics will assist network engineers to be proactive in catching performance degradation before it impacts physicians, nurses and patients. When an unexpected issue does strike, stream-to-disk capture appliances will enable engineers to quickly isolate the root cause even for problems that occurred in the past.
The growth of wireless access in the healthcare market is showing no sign of slowing. To address this, IT organizations need a fully deployed wireless environment analysis system which can watchdog for security threats, while identifying problem points for hospital devices. Additionally, mobile wireless tools are critical in troubleshooting problems with interference, poor connectivity while roaming, and in resolving problems with signal quality.
Armed with the right visibility, healthcare IT organizations will be better equipped to manage and maintain the most complex, dynamic, and exciting environment in the industry.
OptiView® XG Network Analysis Tablet
Network Time Machine™
Visual Performance Manager™/Application Performance Appliance
AirMagnet Enterprise v10
AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer
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