Why Healthcare IT Demands End-to-End Networking Solutions
End-to-end networking solutions offer IT teams unparalleled control over performance and security, making them a perfect fit for increasingly complex hospital IT environments.
In the early days of enterprise-class networking, IT teams at large organizations like hospitals could manage their infrastructures with a high degree of control and relatively little effort. The small, tightly-regulated local area networks (LANs) that were more prevalent in those days are easy to troubleshoot, and in the event of a service breakdown, something as straightforward as a crashed server or disconnected network cable is usually to blame.
For better or worse, this simple framework is no longer the norm in healthcare IT. Modern hospital networks are far more complex, far more hybridized, and are expected to support a far more diverse range of user activity. In theory, this affords hospital administrators the ability to fine-tune their systems with remarkable precision — direct some additional bandwidth allowances here, add some supplemental security measures there, and you’ll deliver higher-performing, more secure internet access to each and every network user.
In practice, however, executing on this potential is often complicated by the fractured, piecemeal infrastructures that underlie most hospitals’ networks. It’s not unusual for a hospital network to be comprised of products from multiple vendors and multiple generations of technology — a firewall from one vendor, a brand new set of access points from another vendor, outdated servers from a third, and so on.
Consolidating Network Management
Such a stitched together infrastructure not only creates security gaps, it also makes equipment upgrades and network performance assurances unduly difficult by introducing interoperability concerns into an IT team’s calculus. The majority of modern networking components are built with customizability in mind, but there’s no guarantee that every infrastructural amalgam a hospital stumbles into will function seamlessly as a whole.
This is why many hospitals are beginning to consider end-to-end networking solutions that enable them to manage, secure, and scale their networks in an efficient and reliable manner. By building a single unified network infrastructure, a hospital can break down the silos that tend to compromise the two most critical aspects of healthcare IT: performance and security.
Ensuring Proper Bandwidth Allocation
In a hospital setting, the health of an institution’s networks is directly related to the health of its patients. For a network that includes connected physiological monitors, mobile medical applications, and EHRs, poor network performance isn’t just an inconvenience — it could seriously hurt the quality of care. As Aruba Networks’ Product Marketing Manager Rick Reid puts it, “The network has to be extremely reliable because it’s literally life or death. You have to plan coverage capacity, backup systems, and application intelligence just to make sure that things work — and that they work 24/7.”
Ensuring this high level of network performance across an entire hospital is incredibly difficult. In addition to being rife with sources of radio frequency interference (RFI), a large hospital can include as many as 85,000 connected devices on top of its standard computer systems.
This massive number of connections means that there is almost never enough bandwidth to go around, forcing hospital IT teams to determine which devices need priority access to their network resources. A doctor uploading or downloading critical patient information should be given priority over a guest streaming videos on their phone in the waiting room.
Determining which devices are gobbling up the most bandwidth is made far easier when a hospital’s entire networking infrastructure is visible on a single platform. An end-to-end networking solution with a built-in management dashboard empowers hospital administrators to maintain a panoramic, big-picture view of their entire system at all times, guaranteeing that service issues are not only spotted but resolved as quickly as possible.
Securing an Entire Networking Infrastructure
Precise device and access point management is also a critical component of robust network security. HIPAA compliance issues aside, network breaches can cost hospitals as much as $355 for every compromised record, and unfortunately, they’re hardly a rare occurrence. Research indicates that 90% of healthcare organizations suffered some sort of security breach between 2015 and 2016, with the average incident totalling $2.2 million in damage.
Fortunately, end-to-end networking solutions deliver comprehensive IT infrastructures with advanced cybersecurity protocols built right in. As Frost & Sullivan Connected Health Analyst Nancy Fabozzi told HIPAA Journal, “Hospitals are transitioning from their traditional reactive and fragmented approach to protecting privacy and security…to a new approach and mindset that is proactive, holistic, and coordinated, anchored by integrated solutions designed to protect multiple endpoints.”
This type of unified approach to both security and performance optimization will be critical to the future of both healthcare IT specifically and large-scale IT more broadly. That’s why healthcare providers should partner with a networking expert like Turn-key Technologies. Our decades of experience optimizing healthcare networks have enabled us to assess any hospital’s WiFi infrastructure and support their increasingly high number of critical devices.
By Craig Badrick