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How to Give IT a Break While Still Keeping a Critical Healthcare Network Running

Bettina Baumgart Published 8 Jun 2018

“We didn’t know what was going on until there were problems. With no insight into the network and no redundancy, if something failed, it could be a matter of life and death.”

Does this sound familiar?

This is how Josh Mandeville, the Network Security Administrator at Indiana University Health felt about their network infrastructure at one of Indiana’s most comprehensive healthcare systems before they implemented a solid and agile networking solution. Let’s further explore what the key challenges of clinical networks in our digital world are.

Better Care is Leading to More Complexity

Modern healthcare networks are the most complex environments. Healthcare providers are focused on improving patient care and safety through the exchange of accurate information between healthcare staff and making it available at the point-of-care through technology. Users from clinicians to back office staff rely on the network to care for patients in the best way possible. They all need clinical grade BYOD with specific stringent requirements. Besides doctors and nurses, patients and visitors also require guest Internet access. With all the different users and requirements for access, IT teams have an environment that could be complicated to manage.

IoT technology enables numerous medical devices such as patient monitors, infusion pumps, and medical imaging systems to work via the network. Supporting all these medical devices on a clinical network increases the attack surface for the network and thus additional safeguards need to be implemented to prevent unauthorized access to the network and devices and strategies to contain cyberattacks.

Adding further to the complexity of a clinical network are a diverse range of applications from consumer apps such as YouTube and Facebook, and TV to PACS imaging, EPR, EMR, video conferencing, and traditional PAS systems. So many diverse people and devices accessing the network and running all kinds of applications while applying the highest security and compliance standards lets IT teams struggle to keep up. The basis for managing this complexity is understanding it better – knowing who and what is accessing the network at any time and what applications are running on it and how well are they performing.

You Can Only Manage What You Can See

With digital transformation, the need for organizations to view the network as a business asset and derive information from it to make better business decisions has become crucial. For that IT teams need to get insights and answers to questions such as:

  • What applications are running on your network? Any you want to block?
  • What data can be accessed through my connected medical devices?
  • Who is using what applications and when?
  • How is the user experience for applications?
  • Can you troubleshoot an issue before it becomes critical?

In summary, you need business insights derived from your network and applications that empowers you to make data-driven decisions to improve the quality of experience for everyone –  doctors, nurses, patients, and visitors. It also helps you to better understand the value of your investments in specific applications and networking infrastructure. Only when you have control, visibility and insights into the entire clinical network, can you run such a complex network securely and smoothly.

That’s where a modern, easy to use campus networking solution comes in. When evaluating such a solution make sure it gives you the following benefits:

  • A flexible scalable architecture that can deliver consistent services and exceptional application experiences
  • 360º visibility into the entire network from the edge to the data center to make it possible to run a complex network with limited IT resources and reduce operating costs
  • A secure unified management solution that can grow with your organization and offers automated control and granular policies over users, devices and applications, including BYOD and IoT.
  • Insights into the network and applications that enable you to deliver an exceptional quality of experience for clinical applications

Let’s Learn From Indiana University Health

Indiana University Health implemented an advanced networking solution that enabled them to deliver a better patient experience, while managing 25 locations with a networking staff of less than two people.

Indiana University Health implemented a networking solution with analytics that brought the entire network into one view, with deep insights. This allowed them to see the entire network, all connected devices, and everything running on it at a granular level on one easy to read dashboard. They now can monitor and manage the experience and performance of applications, predict issues that might come up, and fix them before they become critical. The ever-increasing number of devices that needs to access the network is being managed with automated granular policies to keep the network secure. This new solution enables Indiana University Health to deliver consistent exceptional experiences for their entire organization so that doctors and nurses can better treat patients and improve their health. Patient satisfaction also has gone up considerably.

“With ExtremeAnalytics, ExtremeControl, and GTAC support, we finally have real vision into our network and the support to back us up. ExtremeAnalytics gives us an amazing ability to create policies and proactively shape our staff and patient’s experience on our network.” – Josh Mandeville, the Network Security Administrator at Indiana University Health

What are your experiences with managing a complex clinical network? Let us know in the comments below. We like to hear from you.

To read more about how Indiana University Health is able to manage their network more efficiently and smoothly, see our case study.

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