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The significance of uptime for healthcare computers and how to maximise it

(Image credit: Image Credit: Photo_Concepts / iStock)

Extensive adoption of digital technology has vastly enhanced patient care and support processes in healthcare institutions. Myriad computing systems such as Clinical Information Systems (CIS), Point-of-Care terminals, Patient Portals, and Computer on Wheels (COW) have yielded overwhelmingly positive results in terms of delivering effective medical services promptly to patients. Quite naturally, these sophisticated tools have become indispensable for both doctors and the medical support staff.

These digital medical systems are integral to the quality of healthcare services. Hence, IT professionals in medical campuses constantly remain under mounting pressure to ensure uninterrupted system availability and uptime. Unexpected downtime and system glitches spell serious difficulties in routine operations, which can also culminate in potentially life-threatening situations. An ill-maintained equipment can be one of the major factors of long-term reputational damage for healthcare establishments. Managing and controlling healthcare devices optimally is imperative for the continuity of critical medical operations.

Importance of uptime for healthcare computers

Modern healthcare institutions have networked devices that help hospital administration to provide a wide range of services to patients. Such a complex multi-user technological environment is constantly vulnerable to the inappropriate use of endpoint devices. As a result, instances of device malfunction and system glitches become more common and pose a real threat to the stability of the IT infrastructure. Issues such as downloads of unauthorised software and system failure occur frequently, resulting in slow or unresponsive devices, which in turn depreciates the quality of patient care.

Digitally stored patient records, medical history, prescribed medication, dietary restrictions, medical test results, and other information are accessed constantly by numerous support staff members and medical experts at any given instant. System glitches disrupt information accessibility, and that seriously interferes with providing quality treatment to patients. To prevent such eventualities, constant uptime of every system in the network is essential.

Technical disruptions or sluggish device performance leads to a drop in productivity of medical experts, causing treatment delays, and increases maintenance costs as well. Healthcare organisations need to adopt the right tools and best practices for maintaining the systems at peak performance all the time.

Ways to ensure maximum uptime for medical systems

Monitoring medical devices religiously: One of the most effectual ways to maximise systems uptime and improve productivity is to monitor the health of the medical endpoints involved in patient care. It is a monumental task considering the number of devices that are deployed in any given medical centre, but nonetheless imperative. When the IT administrators inspect the health of medical systems on a regular basis, they are able to detect gaps in system performance before these convert into worrisome disruptions. This enables the tech team to diagnose possible system issues, appraise the key performance metrics of crucial healthcare technology, and refine their responsiveness.

Instituting privacy guidelines and regulations: Delivering high-quality medical services require healthcare organisations to create, store, and confidentially exchange patient information across multiple facilities. Patients’ medical history is primarily used to make accurate medical diagnoses, but it may also contain sensitive information such as income range, employment portfolio, address, medical history, and psychological profile. If sudden system downtime occurs due to configuration drifts or malware infiltration, electronically stored patient information may get lost or corrupt, thus posing threat to the privacy of the patients.

Increasing concern for protecting the confidentiality of patients’ information has made it necessary for hospitals to adhere to federal regulations, such as those enumerated in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Protection of patients’ digital records is an absolute priority for hospitals and other medical facilities. It is imperative for healthcare institutes to establish and maintain privacy standards and regulatory practices for every staff member to follow. In particular, information must only be made accessible to individuals with the required credentials. Eliminating the scope of unauthorised access automatically safeguards patient data. It also prevents the possibility of configurational drifts as specific devices and functionalities are accessible to only relevant and authorised staff members.

Implementing a robust backup mechanism: It goes without saying that a good backup plan serves as the key to any organisation’s data recovery strategy. The backup mechanism must be architectured (or adopted) taking into account both the current and the future needs of the healthcare sector and of the concerned medical organisation. Backed-up data in cloud-based storage solutions is the way to go in this era so that the medical staff can access it using different devices.

The aforementioned measure ensures that even if a particular device becomes unresponsive, the requisite data can still be accessed from another device. Consequently, patient care does not get delayed due to lost or inaccessible records.

It is also crucial that all backup strategies be tested and their effectiveness is checked on a regular basis. The changing needs of the organisations require that these strategies be modified and improved constantly.

Executing timely maintenance of medical systems: IT teams in healthcare organisations need to maintain medical endpoints at their optimal operability to prevent service disruptions. Regular monitoring in tandem with the timely deployment of software updates and patches help to extend the device lifecycle and availability.

In the extensive and complex technological frameworks used by healthcare facilities, manually accomplishing these maintenance tasks is labour-intensive and time-consuming. It is advisable for IT professionals to use solutions that allow them to schedule and automate these routine system maintenance activities.

Deploying restorative remediation measures: In addition to implementing all the best practices mentioned above, deploying an effective system restore mechanism for mitigating the possible technical aberrations is necessary for the holistic upkeep of the healthcare IT infrastructure. Severe technical glitches render devices unusable until the IT personnel attends to it and resolves the issue. This obviously disrupts the operations workflow.

A Reboot to Restore software can combat IT downtime challenges and keep systems responsive to the needs of doctors, support staff and patients all the time. A Reboot and Restore solution allows the IT administrators to define and preserve a system configuration as the baseline, and keep it immune from all the inputs and alterations that take place due to constant device use. When a device malfunctions, the staff member present there only has to reboot it. This rollback software reverts the system to the admin-defined baseline instantly. All input and changes generated during the entire session of activity are discarded, ensuring that medical systems remain constantly available in a reliable state with minimal effort.

By establishing methods to maximise system uptime, healthcare organisations can not only guarantee the longevity and integrity of their devices but also ensure superior medical care for patients.

Jose Richardson, Marketing, Reboot to Restore Software
Image Credit: Photo_Concepts  / iStock

Jose Richardson
A self-proclaimed ‘tech geek’, Jose has worked in Reboot Restore technology and divides his time between blogging and working in IT.