Somebody get me a doctor

July 1, 2010
Recently I had multiple occasions to witness firsthand some of the technological developments taking place in the medical field ...

Recently I had multiple occasions to witness firsthand some of the technological developments taking place in the medical field, and in the process got an inkling of how some of these goings-on might drive the need for robust network infrastructure (that’s cabling to you and me) among medical facilities.

In one case the term “telehealth” probably best describes the application. Someone I know was hospitalized for a couple weeks and upon her release, her doctors wanted to keep tabs on some vital signs and things of the sort. So first thing every morning, she used in-home equipment to measure her weight and blood pressure.

Through an ordinary telephone line the data was sent from her home to the hospital, where it was accessed by ... well, I’m not sure by whom. But the point is, the data was stored in a central location (isn’t that why they’re called data centers in the first place?) with similar information from everyone else who “telecommuted” to the medical center that day.

In May we noted on that recent survey results show health care IT professionals expect telehealth to dramatically change how health care is delivered in the United States over the next decade. The study, sponsored by Intel Corp., found that a majority of decision makers believe the emergence of telehealth will have a major role in improving the quality and delivery of care to an increasingly chronically ill and aging population.

The other recent experience that opened my eyes to the health care industry’s potential for increased bandwidth consumption was when I heard a nurse at that same local hospital, while taking patient information, make the following comment: “We just switched over to this last week, so I’m being careful to make sure I do it right.” The “this” was electronic medical records; rather than using a pen to write patient information on paper, the nurse was using keystrokes to enter it into a database.

Something told me that the patient data being taken at that moment would physically reside somewhere not far from the data being received remotely that same morning. The physical location is a data center that, like many others, has challenges related to power, cooling, data storage, and high-speed communications.

These two examples are the proverbial tip of the iceberg when it comes to data and bandwidth issues in the health care field. In the coming months we’ll delve deeper into these issues and explain how they might affect the profession in which we work.

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