How network monitoring can make hospitals smarter

Hospitals often underestimate the importance of their underlying network and infrastructure when deploying connected health devices and services, according to Andrew Timms, APAC region sales director for infrastructure monitoring provider, Paessler AG.
“A lot of hospitals are placing a lot of focus on smart systems, but they’re not paying any attention to monitoring their networks, because for them, network monitoring is a new concept,” he told IoT Hub.
“Hospital administrators are only gaining an awareness of the monitoring systems that are required underneath their connected infrastructure, to ensure that these systems are running smoothly.”
Timms said that network monitoring is arguably more important within a hospital environment than within an enterprise for one simple reason.
“We’re not talking about losing money if systems aren’t working; we’re talking about potentially losing lives,” he explained.
“If a patient’s records are required because they’ve just been admitted, we can get their records to them in two seconds. But if it takes us two minutes or two hours due to poor network connectivity, that patient could potentially die.”
While network monitoring within a hospital environment is still a relatively new concept, Paessler is already working with hospitals in Australia to demonstrate the benefits of the technology to their operations.
Calvary hospitals in South Australia are using Paessler's PRTG network monitoring solution to help in the track of things like temperatures in their operating theatres and blood fridge stock levels, as well as their traditional IT infrastructure.
The waste and recycling plants outside the hospitals are monitored as well, such that if they get too full, a ticket will be sent externally to the recycling company to empty them out.
“They’ve even incorporated PRTG into their kitchens, so things like dishwashers can be monitored,” Timms added.
Simplifying systems maintenance
One of the more valuable benefits for a hospital that uses a network monitoring solution is that infrastructure that may have previously been neglected can now be given an active level of care to ensure that it’s running smoothly. It can also uncover a lot of previously unknown issues that require attention.
This then leads to faster resolution of problems, and therefore results in breakdown rates decreasing, improved equipment reliability, and a reduction in unplanned outages
Timms said that hospital staff – like employees in enterprises – can get used to systems going wrong and failing.
“However, once you start installing something like PRTG and realising why things are failing and making proactive changes to get things to run smoothly, it makes a huge difference to the system and gives hospital staff the confidence that things are functioning properly,” he added.
Desire to change from all levels
Turning a hospital into a smart facility requires endorsement from all levels of management, and a high degree of consultation and collaboration to ensure a successful transition.
While it’s easy for infrastructure administrators to see the value in a network monitoring system in a hospital, the actual process of adoption and implementation of such a system as part of a smart health initiative is expedited when top-level management can see the benefits themselves.
“To go outside of standard networking and go into smart devices, applications and other things – which fall outside of the remit of normal infrastructure management – requires hospital directors and other parties that are planning for a smart hospital transition to start thinking about monitoring themselves,” Timms said.
“It’s all great to put all-new equipment in, but they need to ask how they ensure that it’s working efficiently, and I think that’s one question hospital management in general isn’t asking at the moment.”
To ensure that connected medical technology can improve the operations of a health facility – and by extension ensure a better level of service for its patients – requires a unified focus between the medical staff and their IT departments.
“Medical devices tend not be considered in the same way as standard network equipment. We’re bringing in smart equipment into operating theatres, which are handled by operating theatre technicians, doctors, nurses, and so on, and this equipment is essentially software and hardware, these days,” Timms explained.
“It needs to be given the same level of consideration as any PC on the network, so it has to be a combined effort between all parties, and IT need to be brought in to suggest that these smart devices can be brought under the monitoring portfolio.”