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Why Hospital Network Infrastructure Needs Uptime More than Ever

By: Ernest Sampera on May 14, 2020

Today’s hospitals are incredibly dependent upon technology to deliver quality healthcare services to patients. From gathering and managing patient data to providing cutting-edge treatments, hospital network infrastructure is responsible for delivering a variety of mission-critical solutions. In order to meet the growing demand for healthcare services, hospitals must take steps to prioritize system uptime and limit disruption to their IT networks.

Understanding the Importance of Uptime for Hospitals

Perhaps more than any other industry, healthcare providers must remain keenly aware of uptime reliability. That’s because if hospital network infrastructure isn’t able to keep up with demand, lives could be put at risk. While a power outage that impacts healthcare equipment is the nightmare scenario for any hospital, IT outages that impact electronic health records (EHR) are also a huge source of concern for healthcare providers. Technical problems that result in downtime can affect a large number of healthcare facilities within a hospital network. These outages can not only potentially compromise patient data, but also disrupt care by making it impossible to update records.

As the industry has become more reliant on technology, healthcare professionals often no longer have the ability to administer care without it. Take the case radiology, which used to be able to fall back on physical film when their IT system went down. But now there are few departments with the equipment, expertise, and materials necessary to produce film images in the event of an outage. Without a hospital network infrastructure capable of delivering 100% uptime reliability, physicians and IT teams are forced to rely on time-consuming manual interventions to ensure that they will always have access to the resources they need for upcoming appointments, leaving them with very little flexibility should something go wrong.

Why Hospital Network Infrastructure Needs Uptime More Than Ever

The COVID-19 outbreak has placed enormous strain upon hospital network infrastructure. Supply chain disruptions have made it difficult for hospitals to expand their IT capacity and implement remote work policies. There’s also the challenge of increased demand for digital healthcare services, from telemedicine to online appointment scheduling. Unlike many other IT network services, hospital network infrastructure must operate 24x7x365, with limited opportunities for planned outages to handle regular maintenance or updates. That means that adding additional capabilities to meet the current challenges must be done with minimal disruption to existing services.

While testing and contact tracing has been slow to ramp up in the US, hospital network infrastructure forms a crucial link in this chain. Healthcare facilities need to be able to keep updated data pertaining to the number of COVID-19 cases they’ve diagnosed (as well as the number of deaths) to help create an accurate picture of how the contagion is spreading. Hospital network infrastructure will also be important for vaccine development as researchers use cloud computing resources to share data quickly and collaborate from remote locations.

5 Ways to Improve Hospital Infrastructure Uptime

1. Monitor Endpoint Devices Continuously

Every hospital network infrastructure incorporates a wide range of devices to facilitate medical care. IT teams must monitor these devices regularly to evaluate system performance and detect potential gaps. Problems associated with downtime can often be diagnosed in devices before they have an opportunity to disrupt the entire system. Monitoring devices can also help IT teams streamline operations and improve efficiency to reduce strain on hospital network infrastructure.

2. Develop Strong Privacy Guidelines

Having ready access to patient data is essential to delivering high-quality care, but the need for constant availability exposes healthcare systems to downtime threats due to configuration drifts or malware intrusion when data is accessed improperly. Having strong privacy guidelines in place to help all healthcare personnel maintain high levels of security is a vital step in avoiding hospital network infrastructure disruption due to downtime. Data should only be accessed by relevant and authorized personnel with the appropriate credentials. With so many people working remotely (and often with unsecured personal devices), enforcing strict data management guidelines should be a top priority for any healthcare organization.

3. Implement Backup Systems

Having a strong backup mechanism in place to ensure business continuity is absolutely essential for hospital network infrastructure. While many healthcare providers are still using outdated on-premises solutions, they could gain access to much more reliable infrastructure by migrating their IT infrastructure to a colocation data center that offers a 100% uptime reliability SLA. Working from that foundation, further backup systems at other data center locations can be set up to ensure continuous system uptime and mitigate risk.

4. Perform Regular Maintenance/Updates

Although the 24x7x365 nature of hospital services makes it difficult to keep network infrastructure maintained and updated, IT teams must develop a system for doing so. That’s because lack of maintenance and updates could create security vulnerabilities and leave medical technology exposed to unnecessary risk. By combining maintenance protocols with backup capabilities and automated tools, it’s possible to keep hospital network infrastructure fully up-to-date while limiting downtime.

5. Have a Disaster Recovery Plan in Place

When things go wrong and essential systems go offline for any reason, hospitals need to have a plan in place for getting them up and running again. Developing a healthcare disaster recovery plan necessarily means conducting a wide range of risk assessments to identify potential problems and map out solutions that can either avoid them or get network systems up and running again with minimal disruption. Disaster recovery plans are also powerful educational tools that help healthcare personnel understand their roles and responsibilities in the event of a crisis that impacts network services.

Reinforce Your Hospital Network Infrastructure with vXchnge

When a hospital makes the decision to outsource its IT infrastructure and backup recovery systems, it needs a data center partner capable of delivering high levels of uptime and transparency. That’s why hospital systems like Houston Methodist have turned to vXchnge colocation services. Our data centers are engineered for perfection and backed by 100% uptime SLAs. With our award-winning in\site intelligent monitoring platform, our customers retain full visibility into their IT infrastructure, allowing them to make technology decisions based on real-time data. To learn more about how vXchnge can empower hospital network infrastructure, contact one of our colocation experts today.

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