The world of healthcare IT is continuing to move at rapid pace whether it is regulatory, consumer, or clinician driven. Yet some things remain a constant, and one of them is the growing complexity of maintaining a hospital infrastructure that balances the needs and expectations of clinicians, patients, and visitors with their devices and applications that connect to and depend upon the network. The reality is that every party believes they deserve priority and it’s up to IT to address that.
HIMSS, the largest healthcare technology show in the world starts next week in Orlando and there is no better time to assess the role the network plays, and what will be better today compared to yesterday. We have come a long way in the last five years when the biggest challenge used to be summarized by performance, quality of service and having a good supply of “bandwidth headroom.” Getting those issues solved and having a highly reliable network infrastructure was a great achievement.
Today, the stakes have risen in healthcare. Now bandwidth and performance are simply the expectations, and furthermore, with Wi-FI having a dominant role in today’s care facilities for patient care, entertainment and staff efficiency, there is a whole new set of challenges, ranging from the number of connected devices and interference, to security and policy.
To meet heightened expectations – and respond to more chaos from applications and users – intelligent networks is the state that healthcare IT must evolve to.
The key to intelligence is visibility (what better place to harvest information than the network) and reporting of underlying data analytics, which until now have often been ignored. Adjusting the network, responding to applications that are not performing optimally is really the key to both streamlined operations with hospital staff, and of course most importantly, to boosting patient care. Just look at our highways, new roads fix traffic problems for a short time before congestion and jams return.
Paramount to improving application performance is understanding its behavior on a network, the number of users, locations, time of day, etc. Past attempts to pull and analyze application performance have had limited success largely due to the dependence on analyzing traffic from choke points such as firewalls. Moving data collection throughout the network and by the network is the key to extrapolating the data as end users move around and use different applications throughout their day.
With medical devices moving onto the network, the critical role the network now plays in medical device support and trends around hospital Wi-Fi are dominant. As Gartner stated recently in their report on healthcare CIO priorities for 2014, IT needs to be able to efficiently collect and analyze patient-related activity and event data. Our recent Purview product launch plays perfectly into this area and is a key point of emphasis for us at the conference.
At HIMSS, especially in the “Intelligent Hospital Pavilion” on the show floor, Extreme will demonstrate network solutions powering over 75 different devices and applications, providing seamless mobility and optimized application performance for this “living hospital,” where there is everything you would find in a healthcare facility, ranging from patient telemetry monitoring to critical communications systems.