Opinion: When IT upgrades are necessary

The decision to upgrade IT is one that is never taken lightly, as the cost can vary dramatically. Unlike the consumer market, upgrades in the healthcare industry are never performed merely to obtain the latest and greatest version of a product for bragging rights.

Instead, external factors are at work and can include:

  • Legislative – new laws require compliance with mandates for data storage or security
  • Lack of support – a primary example in 2014 is the end of Microsoft support for Windows XP, which drove many companies to upgrade their operating systems). This also resulted in other changes as existing hardware or software was non-compliant with Windows 7 or 8
  • Lack of performance – speed is often a driving factor and can relate to network, broadband or local workstation performance. In a drive to boost efficiency, changes are made.

With such a wide variety of potential issues, knowing when and what to upgrade is possible for those without technical know-how, but technical support, whether on-premise or remote, is necessary to diagnose problems. Most medical professionals are not concerned with IT and instead prefer to concentrate on patient care.

However, medical professionals, during their daily usage of IT functions, can also notice problem indicators such as slow online access or a delay in entering data, which are often primary indicators of a performance issue. User feedback or alerts from linked clinics can also indicate service issues. All such feedback is taken as valuable information in diagnosing network or workstation problems.

Issues that reduce productivity are then investigated by your technical team. Most are resolved quickly but others may require hardware or software upgrades, whether changing a faulty router, adding additional memory or storage to crucial workstations or removing viruses that have caused unnecessary network traffic.

Regular preventative maintenance can identify potential issues in advance and are performed by experts, with the necessary knowledge to install required updates, remove dust build-up on equipment air vents (when dust blocks vents on a PC chassis, the processor can overheat, with replacement often necessary) and perform connectivity tests.

If IT support is outsourced, regular on-site visits are recommended to maximise productivity and ensure business continuity. Hard drives, for example, rarely fail without warning but many users ignore the drive integrity warnings that occur when a workstation is started.

For that very reason, it is important to ensure that back-up procedures are operational. Tech professionals also validate this process, which is crucial when dealing with medical data.

In many cases, server management is simply too time-consuming and expensive, with cloud solutions sometimes eliminating upgrade worries completely by providing a virtual desktop solution for data management.

In such cases, internet access is essential and perceptive clinic owners will ensure that back-up services are available if the primary broadband connection is compromised.

Medical professionals are best advised to concentrate on their core activities and retain IT staff to ensure that necessary processes function without interruption.

Rob Khamas is an eHealth solutions strategist with REND Tech Associates.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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