How many of you can relate to this story?
My wife told me her car wasn’t working right. She complained several times before I became concerned, so I finally took it for a spin. I don’t drive her car a lot, so I was trying to compare the performance to when I knew it worked well. I don't have sophisticated diagnostic equipment, so I was trying to look for symptoms. Honestly, I couldn't pinpoint the problem.
I told her I think it’s fine. She started complaining again a week later, so I told her we need to have a professional look at it.
I am lucky that I found an honest and reliable mechanic in my town, so I decided to take it to him. In a few hours, his crew figured out what was wrong.
Why? He and his team have the latest and greatest diagnostic tools and experience. They work on cars all day, every day. I would have spent hours and still likely never figured out a small problem that would have created expensive repairs had I not taken the car down.
One of the least sexy things I can think of. Never there was a Saturday morning where I woke up saying excitedly “Wow, I get to do house maintenance today! Can’t wait, let’s go!”
I like to think about maintenance in a broader context. It’s more than simply averting impending failures. A host of other activities should also be performed such as annual upgrades, configuration audits, patches, and other technical aspects. A more human-centered approach also includes rounding up comments and observations by the end-users and the departments.
High Availability for Hospitals
We spend a LOT of money on redundancy in healthcare for our IT systems. We do this because we are—you guessed it—digital hospitals. EMRs run clinical workflow. Staff communication systems are all digital. (We can refer to EMRAM EHR adoption stats) When the network is down or a critical hospital software application is down, panic ensues.
What happens if high availability fails?
This reminds me of another story...
I live in California, where there have been power outages in recent years. I decided to purchase a generator to endure longer outages and to preserve my food investment (ok, I admit it, it’s my wine collection).
One horrendously windy day, the power company said they would be taking preventative action by cutting power in certain high wind areas to reduce risk of fires from fallen power lines. I was of course busy with work and couldn’t prep anything. I knew I had the generator and (I believed) some gas. As the news foreshadowed, power was cut off, so I decided to move some refrigerators and freezers onto the generator. I rolled out the generator and pushed the button to fire it up. There were several unsuccessful attempts to start the system. I got to thinking about the last time I had it running and the best I figured it was a season ago. Ugh, the carburetor for sure is gummed up. By the time I got to cleaning it out, using flashlights and reinstalling it, the power returned.
I asked myself why I spent money on a generator if I wasn’t going to make sure it works when I needed it? I felt very angry with myself.
What made me remember this story is that this morning I was alerted to a calendar reminder I set for myself following this event to run the generator. Yes, I set up a bi-monthly reminder to start and run the generator for 10 minutes to make sure I had the use of the generator when I needed it most.
Improving Wireless Reliability Through Annual Testing
Proactive leaders realize regular assessments are key to ensuring systems are in proper operating condition. However, realizing the need is only the first step. It is important that you then ask yourself:
- Do we have the skills internally to perform a proper assessment?
- What tools do we need to accomplish this effectively?
- Experience matters. Do we have enough?
- Will our analysis keep up with changing industry best practices?
Healthcare IT teams are stretched thin, and you’ve been telling your leadership that for years. You are accustomed to being saddled with yet-another-technology to implement and subsequently manage while at the same time maintaining everything else. Rarely is a technology decommissioned that isn’t replaced with another—competition for staff resources is continuous.
When we assess our customers, here are some of the things we see frequently:
- Equipment offline or in a degraded state
- High availability systems destined to fail
- Major security patches not applied
- Vulnerable wireless security authentication implementations
- Equipment configurations with significant variance to plan—config drift
- Significant changes to facility construction, utilization, and device density that’s overloading the infrastructure
- New devices and applications with high performance requirements
- Frustrated end users who have frequently complained and gave up
There is a huge advantage to be called in experts like Clinical Mobility. We know what to look before because we see it all—experience. We have the best tools industry has to offer and the expert training to go along with it. We’ve even written our own software tools that performed advanced analytics nobody else can offer.
Maintenance stinks. However, it is absolutely necessary to maintain an operational state. Responsible leaders understand this, and even smarter ones realize a fresh set of trained eyes will yield optimal results.
I would like to know if you have learned anything or gained a different perspective by reading this.