Hospitals and health care facilities are an integral part of our society. Hospitals treat patients and keep us healthy with the best medical knowledge and practices. Hospitals are increasingly using advanced technology from operations management to record keeping and even diagnostics, and IT systems are helping doctors and nurses accomplish feats.
Digital transformation has changed everything
In healthcare, as in many other industries, the digital transformation has been rapid. Modern medical equipment is being networked, making the IT infrastructure inextricably linked to the day-to-day processes of healthcare, including patient care. This has increased the efficiency and quality of care. But digitalization is fraught with new pitfalls. Today’s hospital IT networks, with so many new connected devices, have more potential points of failure than ever before.
Healthcare and the pandemic
When coronavirus patients were added to the normal patient flow, the strain on healthcare systems increased. According to an ONS report, 42% of patients were affected because of limited or no treatment availability.
It’s no longer about long-term plans or transformations by 2030 or 2040. – It’s all about the here and now. Outdated equipment, including IT systems, are preventing medical professionals from focusing on core tasks. Many systems support key processes from clinical trials to therapy support. Therefore, network failures in healthcare facilities are unacceptable.
Anatomy of a Modern Healthcare Infrastructure
At the heart of all healthcare IT systems, like any other, is data storage and transmission. Most, if not all, IoT medical devices use data and information accessible through various points in the hospital network.For example, a radiologist typically needs access to a patient’s MRI results in order to view images that have been automatically uploaded to the system by the MRI machine.
To provide this degree of integration, most hospitals have what is called an integration center. This is a central communication center that securely stores information and data and makes it available on demand. This center can be compared to a hospital’s central nervous system, providing all communications over a network. In larger hospitals, the integration center works with several other independent data systems, such as the Picture Communication and Archiving System (PACS), the Radiology Information System (RIS), and the Laboratory Information System (LIS). Integration with these systems ensures that information is stored in the correct segments of the network.
What is PACS
PACS is essentially a platform for storing and sharing images.Imaging devices enable all kinds of imaging studies: x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, etc. These images are stored long-term in a central repository from where they can be retrieved and transferred to other workstations and devices. This central repository is called PACS.
Imaging is essential to the diagnosis and treatment of all types of illness and injury, so PACS is a critical tool for the modern physician. Read more about it in our report on health IT monitoring.
In a typical hospital network, PACS connects to imaging devices, the radiology information system and the integration center. PACS is at the center of many radiology-related workflows, which means problems with PACS can critically affect patient care.
If there are problems with image storage or access, many hospital processes are disrupted. IT needs to set up a system to monitor and alert to potential PACS issues. Here are four aspects of PACS that should be monitored.
Since PACS is primarily a storage system, it requires disk space. This needs to be monitored: set thresholds, generate warnings if storage space is low. Parameters of servers and storage should be monitored: watch for signs of hardware failures (overheating, lack of RAM, etc.)
2. Delayed read/write operations for PACS and storage
PACS constantly saves images in storage and loads them. This includes tasks such as preparation for loading, short-term transfer, long-term transfer, and more. The latency of PACS storage accesses for reads and writes should be minimal so as not to slow down the entire system. It is recommended to monitor this delay and set thresholds.
3. PACS APIs and log files
Many PACS provide APIs to access component health and status information, and almost all such systems create log files. Typically, the PACS API can provide data on current application performance and metrics such as the number of DICOM requests received, the number of errors, and the processing status of internal requests. You can retrieve these metrics through an appropriate API in a network monitoring system (for example, using RESTful requests if the API provides a RESTful interface), and you can generate an alert when values fall outside of acceptable ranges.
Logs contain information about failures, such as failed authentication attempts or internal PACS failures. It is recommended that you regularly monitor the logs for potential problems.
The PACS is central to a typical hospital’s IT infrastructure, with interfaces to multiple systems and devices, such as the radiology information system, imaging devices, and more. You need to keep a close eye on these interfaces.
There are two basic protocols for communicating between medical systems that can be used to monitor the interfaces.
– DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine): used to store, retrieve and transmit digital medical images, for example between PACS and imaging devices, workstations. To check the status of DICOM interfaces, you can use the C-STORE function to check image storage capability and C-MOVE and C-FIND queries to check image transmission.
– HL7 (Health Level 7): Other data exchange between systems, such as patient data, test results, etc., is primarily handled by HL7. If HL7 messages are transmitted incorrectly or incompletely, it may cause delays or problems in other systems. It is recommended that HL7 test messages be sent and that the success and completeness of the information be checked. This can be done with monitoring software that supports HL7.
– User interface: Web interfaces are often used to query data from PACS on a workstation. To ensure a user-friendly experience, administrators should monitor the response speed and availability of these interfaces.
Maximum reliability at all times
When it comes to healthcare IT, administrators have an obligation to provide the highest level of reliability 24/7. People’s lives and the protection of sensitive information depend on it.
Fortunately, with the right tools, experience and equipment, hospital IT staff can handle all challenges. Let doctors and nurses focus on what matters most. Keeping us healthy.
The author of the article https://touchofhealthmedical.com/roger-walker/
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