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The leading-edge treatment practices of modern healthcare providers are supported by a state-of-the-art information technology network that includes fully-electronic patient medical records. It also features a group-wide practice management system relying on several interoperable systems and third party services - maybe delivered as a Software as a Service solution - in order to work efficiently.

Information such as patient medical records and practice management systems require both intensive amounts of data and also the utmost in security to protect sensitive information and remain in compliance. Any network or IT problem needs to be proactively identified because delays in accessing patient medical information can result in slower care and potential medical issues for the patient. Larger scale network monitoring solutions are required for healthcare companies that need to monitor connections between different locations. Only by that method can it be ensured that data transmissions and connectivity are functioning properly.

Between the critical, heavily Internet-dependent applications, the healthcare providers also need standard business communication. To successfully leverage the power of instantaneous data transfer to facilitate the most efficient treatment for its patients is very important for every healthcare provider, because for its patients time is an exceptionally precious commodity. A delay in the receipt of critical test results or in the transmission of prescriptions due to an IT failure can have a direct impact on patients' care and comfort.

Optimum IT Performance Enables Optimum Care

To maintain optimum performance across its entire IT infrastructure, healthcare providers should rely on a network monitoring solution to keep tabs on vital data connections, servers, applications and even some workstations. Such a solution enables the IT team to be much more proactive and efficient at resolving potential IT issues before they even become a problem.

A patient with liver disease requiring special medication that is confronted with unavailable medical records due to a network outage is a troubling situation for any IT team of a healthcare provider. A network monitoring solution helps them to avoid such critical situations by ensuring that everything is running smoothly at all times.

With remote sensors deployed across the provider’s network, a network monitoring solution reviews the network not only for Internet connectivity and VPN connections between the corporate offices and remote locations, but also the speed and reliability of connections with its third-party vendors, battery backups, physical servers, virtual machines and even some individual workstations. The measured data is compiled into an easy-to-use graphical snapshot of the entire network's performance. From a main dashboard, the IT team is able to drill down to examine specific details about particular components.

With a built-in automatic reporting system, specific reports can be provided to the responsible persons via e-mail on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to help to keep track of normal operating status and spot any abnormal trends. In the event of a problem with a vendor-supplied application, a report can be created easily illustrating for example the memory usage on a server or decreased transmission speed, and can then supply this data via email to the vendor for troubleshooting purposes.

Network Monitoring Saves Time and Money

Meanwhile, in the event of an actual outage, network traffic slowdown or any other noteworthy event, a suitable network monitoring solution automatically alerts the responsible IT person via e-mail, SMS, or pager so that he may begin to immediately diagnose the problem. With healthcare provider’s IT teams often responsible for multiple locations with limited resources, network monitoring allows them to work much more efficiently to resolve issues, saving both time and money in troubleshooting, travel and even hardware/software upgrades.

For example, if the network monitoring notifies the IT personnel about a failure on a third-party lab interface, they are quickly able to rule-out several critical systems, and pass the problem to the software vendor. In addition to saving time, network monitoring helps to allocate financial resources. As technology is a major investment for a medical practice, a monitoring tool helps to plan and budget. For example, historical monitoring data could be used to determine if a physical server is a good candidate for virtualization.

As medical offices continue to embrace technology, there is a growing demand to ensure the most efficient use of that technology. A network monitoring solution can help healthcare organizations to identify real needs, justify the costs of upgrades, and decide where to make IT investments that will do the most good. That allows stretching of the technology budget. Although it is primarily used for server and network monitoring, it could also be used for temporary monitoring of troublesome workstations. A simple problem caused by too little RAM in the machine can be identified and then easily and affordably be corrected by adding more memory rather than upgrading the entire workstation.

Value is a significant concern for healthcare providers when it comes to choosing a monitoring solution. There are plenty of options available, but when looking for the best value, it often is proven that good monitoring software doesn't need to be expensive. Similar to most technology initiatives, the pricing for quality network monitoring is trending down, with advanced solutions now reaching affordable levels. The return on investment in any business or medical practice is high when it comes to the purchase of monitoring, and it reaches an even greater level with healthcare providers where you aren’t just checking transactions or process flows, but aiding in the fundamental right of efficient and secure medical care.

Dirk PaesslerAuthor - Dirk Paessler, CEO of Paessler AG, is an engineer, entrepreneur, computer networking professional and software guru. In addition to founding Paessler AG, provider of the award winning PRTG network monitoring solution, Dirk has a long track record of co-founding successful internet platforms such as hotel.de, anwalt.de and more. To learn more about Dirk and his expertise in network monitoring, visit his blog at http://www.paessler.com/blog.