Patch Job

June 24, 2011
It is often said that modern medicine is a miracle. And truly, today's technology enables caregivers to accomplish much more than once imagined.

It is often said that modern medicine is a miracle. And truly, today's technology enables caregivers to accomplish much more than once imagined.

MRI and CT images appear in 3-D to make diagnoses easier. Doctors and surgeons are using real-time video for teaching, lectures and telemedicine. Lab technicians are sending huge X-ray files from one end of a facility to the other. New technology offers an opportunity to meet the growing demand for improved healthcare without financial pain for patients or taxpayers.

In order to utilize this technology to its fullest, many facilities are upgrading cabling systems to 10 gigabit networks. The full impact of these upgrades can be seen when transmitting a 150 megabyte CT brain scan comprised of 515 images and a spinal scan amounting to 127 megabytes in seconds to anywhere in the hospital.

However, while many facilities are upgrading their cabling, they are not taking the steps necessary to utilize this technology to its potential: namely, implementing an intelligent patching solution that will manage these new networks efficiently.

Information systems, particularly those found in healthcare facilities, need to be managed in real time. Having a patching solution can cut network management costs, improve productivity and prevent damaging communication faults by providing real-time control of voice and data connection.

An ideal patching solution removes the complexity of network design and configuration through its simplicity. Because networks are designed to support the objectives of the facility, networks need to be able to change with the facility's needs. Intelligent patching allows the network manager to expand the network easily and remotely.

Without an intelligent patching solution, the network is just a jumble of patch cords, meaning that if there is a problem with a network connection, an IT technician has to manually search through hundreds of cords with nothing but a spreadsheet for guidance. Not only does this waste valuable resources, but any downtime in the network can slow delivery of care.

Patching solutions can utilize sensors to detect patch cord insertion, and they also can utilize a trace button and LED to give one-touch cord tracing. This allows IT managers or network installers to see where new patch connections should be made, and a buzzer tells them when they have made a mistake. As such, a patching solution significantly reduces errors for critical backbone tasks.

A patching solution also allows vital fiber connections in the network backbone to be monitored in real time, much the same as monitoring copper connections in the horizontal. The use of standard patch cords provides simple infrastructure management without the need for proprietary products. An ideal patching solution can also monitor, verify and log every fiber port in its central database.

Having a well-designed and monitored network also provides additional security for the facility — a big plus when you have to worry about regulatory compliance issues like those governed by HIPAA requirements. Intelligent patching can offer real-time intrusion detection, real-time alerts and advanced switch port utilization control, which can help IT managers address any security issue before it develops. These solutions also utilize automatic diagnostics to detect threats to communications before they harm the facility. Intelligent patching scans the network's physical connections for any changes and alerts managers to anything unexpected.

Many facilities are taking steps in the right direction by upgrading equipment and cabling in order to provide the bandwidth needed for these new applications. But without an intelligent patching solution in place, healthcare facilities are doing themselves, and their patients, a disservice. A patching solution is needed in order to make sure your facility is getting the most out of its network, which ultimately helps you get the most out of your IT managers, administrators and physicians.

Author Information:Mike Barnick is solutions marketing manager, Systimax Solutions, headquartered in Ireland.

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