With today’s technology, there are many reasons to invest in “specialized” network solutions. With the use of technology, we can help you leverage your network for other purposes to improve your bottom line.
When you decide to purchase an EMR, accept the fact that you are making an investment in a network (or increasing an investment if you already have one). In most cases, the quality of your network will have far more to do with the success of your EMR implementation than the vendor you select. Furthermore, with a solid network in place, you will have far more ability and control to replace one vendor with another should the need arise. We have seen far too many instances of practices who “locked” themselves into a bad vendor relationship. Therefore, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the key issues. Even if you do not plan to manage your own network, understanding the key issues will vastly improve your EMR vendor selection as well as make you a better overall practice manager, owner or partner.
To help jump start that process, we have addressed a number of key hardware/network issues:
The foundation of a high performance and reliable technology project is correct networking infrastructure. Do not cut corners or go cheap to save a few dollars.
While you are likely planning to go wireless, keep in mind that no technology is infallible. Networked medical devices, such as an integrated EKG, may require more up/down bandwidth than your wireless connection can support.
Even if you have not budgeted for network wiring, have it done. It will save you countless future migraines.
If you are building out a new space or moving to a new one, make sure to hard-wire each area where patient interaction will occur. While a single CAT-5 outlet in an exam room might seem appropriate, consider possible patient scenarios. If your physicians are using laptops or tablets, would a hard-wire connection require them to crawl behind a desk or exam table or to drape a cable over a patient? Exam rooms may require multiple outlets with at least one placed waste-high on the wall.
If you are moving into an existing building that does not have adequate network wiring, have it installed. You may not want to install it in every room but make sure you have it at the reception desks, including drops for the network printer and other network devices, the nurses station, hallway, lab and offices. Additionally, don’t forget to have a drop run in the ceiling for a wireless access point (WAP) and make sure the WAP has a power source.
This is one area that practices frequently overlook. You need to dedicate a small room or closet for your server, telephone and other technology products. This room must be separately air conditioned and kept at around 70 degrees at all times. Do not let a contractor tell you an exhaust fan and vents on the door will work. It will not. Many companies make AC units for server closets and small spaces (sometimes called split wall units). Make sure you get one. A portable unit from APC costs around $1,200 (MSRP) and is worth every penny.
The network switch connects all of your computers, printers, servers, devices, and in some offices, your VOIP phones. This is another area where being frugal is not advised. We recommend that you purchase a layer 2 managed switch with the desired number of ports. In simple terms, a layer 2 switch affords more flexibility and monitor-ability.
This is the device that protects your network from the Internet. It is also the device that allows virtual private network (VPN) connections for remote offices and at-home workers. For example, think about the physician on-call or, finishing your notes at home after the kids are in bed, rather than staying late at the office.
Your internet service provider (ISP) may provide you with a commercial level Firewall/VPN/Router but they’ll charge for it. The ones they provide are generally low-grade devices that are not up to the task, not to mention not compliant with many laws that require the security of information.
SNC Squared’s firewall also provides the capability of real-time security management. The identity-based security appliance that delivers real-time protection against evolving external and internal threats to your business. The firewall can protect you from malware, viruses, spam, phishing, pharming and more.
The type of WAP your practice needs is not likely available at the local big box electronics stores, such as Best Buy or Office Depot. Commercial grade WAPs are expensive but are worth it for their scalability, performance, reliability and security. We cannot stress the importance of compliance and security regarding your technical equipment.