Mission Critical Networks: What Healthcare Can Teach the Enterprise

April 27, 2015 Bob Zemke


As always, HIMSS was a packed conference where we all try and compress one months worth of health IT activities down to a single week. Between managing the Intelligent Health Pavilion’s networks, meeting customers, and trying to sneak in the occasional session, I needed some downtime before moving on to our next conference – Interop.

In the Intelligent Health Pavilion at HIMSS, as well as in various workshops, we spent a lot of time sharing knowledge on lessons learned in healthIT. As hospitals have accelerated the adoption of technologies, a number of conversations turned to how sometimes rather than following they are ahead of other industries.

On that note, at Interop in Las Vegas I will be speaking on the topic of how the enterprise can look to lessons learned from healthIT. Reliability, Scalability, and Performance: Mission critical networks for all businesses.

Wi-Fi is like Oxygen

Doug McDonald Network Manager for Henry Ford Health System spoke on how Wi-Fi has become mission critical for the health system. No longer a nice to have feature, but rather crucial for providing connectivity for everyone from nurses to patients. Wi-Fi in hospitals is no longer optional. Its not uncommon in hospitals today to find more wireless clients than wired. What makes Wi-Fi unique in hospitals is how early on pervasive and dense coverage was needed for supporting critical systems such as telemetry and nurse call.

Deterministic Planning

Hospitals have to plan solutions that solve not only today’s challenges, but also scaling beyond yesterday’s assumptions. Downtime is rarely available; application adoption is complex. Imagine moving your business from SAP to Oracle while not having any downtime. HealthIT workers rolling out the next generation electronic health applications have spent the last few years making that preparation while at the same time addressing BYOD, adoption of tablets, cloud apps, and a host of other major events.

Connected Devices: The explosion is yet to come

BYOD was just the start. In hospitals IP enabled devices already outnumber employees. We see a tremendous amount of device-to-device or machine-to-machine communications take place in hospitals today. Chances are that IV pump you see on a medical show is Wi-Fi enabled. Scaling support of the number of devices is only half the challenge. The key has been to leverage network automation and intelligence so that devices are onboarded, isolated, and monitored. As enterprises adopt building automation systems, security cameras, and other M2M devices security and support will require more than just a new VLAN.

Life Critical Applications

Applications drive every business, but nothing scares anyone more than when an application issue can disrupt care delivery. Healthcare orgs have adopted not only VoIP, but VoWLAN and now pager apps with smartphones. Delivering applications 24×7 means thinking of the network as more than just large dumb pipes of bandwidth.

You will become an ISP

It seems that before the iPhone hardly anyone used a hospital’s guest Wi-Fi network. Since then it’s been 100% year after year growth of guest access demands for many hospitals. What was once a nice to have feature is now business impacting. Also what started as simple access for email and social media has now turned to an expectation to delivery HD video streaming.

Shadow IT No Longer Hides in the Shadows

IT budgets are not always controlled by IT. Sound familiar? Hospital IT departments frequently have to work alongside departmental IT teams or even clinicians with their own IT budgets. Non-IT controlled budgets are growing in every market. The key is proactive engagement for compliance and cost savings.

Analytics is the MRI for the Business

Applications are becoming more complex and past approaches of adding more bandwidth rarely solves the problem. It’s the lack of visibility into application and client behavior on the network that provides the most resource intensive challenge to IT. Looking into the traffic with network based analytic tools provides IT with knowledge to make evidence based decisions. This becomes even more critical with the adoption of cloud-based applications where you now become dependent on the application delivery of others.

The post Mission Critical Networks: What Healthcare Can Teach the Enterprise appeared first on Extreme Networks.

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