By Joe Kim, SolarWinds EVP, Engineering and Global CTO

 

Within a healthcare environment, IT failure is not an option.

 

This is a critical issue across the two largest federal entities: the DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In these agencies’ healthcare environments, there is no margin for error; the network must always be up and running, and doctors and nurses must be able to access patient data 24/7.

 

Adding to the challenge is the size of healthcare networks and the vast amount of data they store. Every DoD and VA facility must be part of the greater agency network. Then consider each patient, each visit, and each record that must be stored and tracked across the environment. On top of that is the day-to-day operations of each facility, which may itself encompass a large enterprise.

 

What’s the best way to monitor and keep this type of extremely large health IT network running smoothly and consistently? The answer can be found in the following four best practices.

 

Step 1: Gain Visibility

 

Tracking network performance is one of the best ways to understand and mitigate problems that might affect your environment. Agencies should invest in a set of tools that not only provide network and system monitoring, but also a view that spans across the environment.

 

Having this capability provides the visibility necessary to troubleshoot network problems or outages, resolve configuration issues, and support end-users and systems from a central location.

 

Step 2: Secure All Devices

 

From a security perspective, risks are high as healthcare staff and patients alike connect to a facility’s Wi-Fi. And countless endpoints—including medical devices—must be managed, monitored, and controlled.

 

It is critical to put extra emphasis on protecting the network from whatever connects to it by carefully monitoring and treating every single device or “thing” as a potential threat or point of vulnerability.

 

Step 3: Enhance Firewall Management

 

With networks as large as most healthcare environments, firewalls can become an issue. With so many firewalls in place, the network administrator can easily accumulate an ever-growing list of conflicting and redundant rules and objects, which can cause mayhem in firewall management.

 

Federal IT pros should regularly run automated scripts and, to help save time and effort, leverage a network management tool to help identify conflicting rules, remove redundancies, and generally streamline the access control list structure.

 

Step 4: Implement an Automation Tool

 

Time can be the federal IT pro’s greatest challenge, especially working with healthcare environments that push the limits of 24/7 demands.

 

This final step is the most critical for pulling the previous three together. Adding automation is the difference between monitoring problems and fixing them manually, and implementing a complete solution. It can also be the difference between receiving a call at 3:00 a.m. to fix a problem, and being able to sleep soundly and having the system fix itself.

Find the full article on Federal Technology Insider.