HIMSS: IT pros share network struggles

New infrastructure study underscores challenges, priorities

Health information technology leaders generally cite similar infrastructure priorities and challenges faced within the industry, but they disagree on approaches to addressing network scalability, executive support and cloud computing security, according to a new HIMSS Analytics study released Monday. 

IT leaders who participated in the study, conducted as a focus group at HIMSS13, underscored the top four interrelated IT infrastructure priorities as being: use of mobile devices; security; data storage and information exchange.
 
[See also: Meaningful use spurs progress, concerns.]
 
“We found that IT network priorities for all participating hospital systems were consistently focused around accommodating greater mobile and wireless connectivity to their networks,” said Jennifer Horowitz, senior director of research for HIMSS Analytics, in a press statement. “Simultaneously, the IT leaders were also concerned with ensuring the security of patient data, particularly as they relate to the challenges associated with bring your own device environments.”
 
The study’s key findings include:
 
  • Current hospital IT network environments are both wired and wireless. IT leaders reported using diverse methods to establish their networks, from Wi-Fi to DSL lines, but that the number of wireless versus wired devices was growing exponentially. 
  • Reliable IT networks are critical. Participants said that it was imperative to design a network with zero downtime due to the amount of data housed electronically. Disaster preparation is critical as well, with each participant reporting various strategies for data protection including tape back-ups and multiple data centers.
  • IT networks are sufficient for now, but healthcare organizations will need to prepare for a wireless paradigm shift. Overall, participants reported that they were content with current network environments but expressed concern over how their networks will adapt to accommodate the uptick in wireless technologies and devices.

[See also: Health IT leaders face hiring woes.]

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