Healthcare IT on Call: Dealing with Overburdened Systems

Healthcare’s rapidly evolving digital infrastructure drives increased complexity and performance challenges

Healthcare IT on Call: Dealing with Overburdened Systems

When the COVID-19 pandemic first struck, one of the early casualties was normalcy. Nearly every sector of society was profoundly affected. The healthcare industry, in particular, was disrupted as doctors and hospitals primarily focused on caring for a spiraling caseload of COVID-19 patients.

To attend to the multitude of patients, including those not afflicted by the virus, the healthcare industry had to rapidly pivot to telehealth to ensure the safety of caregivers and patients alike. Many organizations had already begun to offer such services, but the need grew exponentially. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the first quarter of 2020 alone, the number of telehealth visits increased by 50 percent compared with the same period in 2019.

The Growing Need for Reliable Connectivity

In addition to remote care, the healthcare industry has been steadily migrating to digital channels for sharing and storing vital patient health records, diagnostic test results, radiology imaging, and prescriptions. To meet these demands, many hospitals have turned to cloud-based business services and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. For example, in November electronic health record (EHR) giant Epic reported more than 221 million patient records were shared using its Care Everywhere interoperability platform, which represents a 40 percent increase year over year.

With an increase in the number of devices, users, and applications relying on vital network connectivity, healthcare providers have had to dramatically increase their bandwidth. At the same time, healthcare IT professionals are under tremendous pressure to assure the performance of networks, applications, and services. Any unplanned disruptions can be truly catastrophic, and even planned migrations, application upgrades, or system changes can be disruptive, which has major healthcare implications.

As demand has grown, the size and complexity of digital infrastructures also have grown, creating new challenges and risks. Adding to the challenge for IT, healthcare providers often use technologies from multiple vendors. This means that IT teams are tasked with overcoming integration and interoperability issues. As is often the case, each vendor provides visibility into the performance of its own system or application. And although this visibility might reveal that specific applications, network and cloud tools, and databases are operating optimally, issues affecting end users still may occur. Because the tools are siloed, there is no big-picture view that can reveal a problem or problems, let alone how to resolve them.

Ensuring Network Performance

Lack of visibility across the entire IT infrastructure hinders IT’s ability to measure the performance of the network and all of its many component services. Gaining end-through-end visibility is key to evaluating data, traffic, voice, video, and other network factors in order to identify issues or disruptions throughout the infrastructure. 

By holistically monitoring network performance—attaining extensive visibility across private data centers, public cloud, and SaaS—healthcare IT professionals are better positioned to support complex digital infrastructures and ultimately ensure the best possible user experience. In this instance, that can mean the difference between life and death.

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