In my previous blog post, I spoke about converting your “paper office” into a “paperless office”. In this post, I will address the aftermath of the conversion.
Maintaining Data Integrity
After you have converted those mountains of paper documents into bits and bytes on a disk, you are likely seeing an increase in productivity. You are able to see more patients in a day because the inefficiencies of pen to paper have been eliminated and the time to keep those documents sorted has been greatly reduced. These new efficiencies are great but can quickly come to a halt if you aren’t maintaining your digital data and data networks. The last thing you want is to discover all your data has been lost due to data corruption or disk failure; this should be your primary concern. There should be a plan to guard against this, such as redundancies for your data and regular disk maintenance on the servers and workstations where your data is stored.
Some disk drives will have self-monitoring, analysis and reporting technology (S.M.A.R.T) built in to give you pro-active alerts about imminent disk failures. Your data should be kept on a redundant array of independent disks (R.A.I.D.) which depending on the R.A.I.D. level configured, data will replicate onto a secondary disk. In the event the primary disk fails, the secondary Disk will take over so you can continue working. Of course the R.A.I.D. array should be restored as quickly as possible! To protect against data corruption on these disks, a disk check should be run no longer than a month apart and to further your redundancy, data should be backed up nightly to an external drive or cloud based backup service.
Most people who backup data recognize the importance and do it regularly. A more important question to ask is: “Are they regularly checking their backups?” How do you know your backup data is not corrupt? Do you know if the data is being backed up at all? While data backups are important, it is also important to have a plan in place that checks the integrity of your backups at regular intervals. Otherwise, what good is having a backup?
Disk failures and corruption easily happen during sudden power spikes, brown outs or black outs. Some may recall the huge Northeast Blackout of 2003 and power outage that occurred throughout parts of Ontario, Canada and the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. To protect your disks and the health of your server and workstations, they should be plugged into a UPS (uninterruptable power supply). This provides battery backup to these devices and depending on the UPS, can be configured to gracefully shut down the server and workstations during extended blackouts.
What roads are to maintaining order and traffic flows, network maintenance keeps data flowing preventing bottlenecks and outages. Clinics may not seem like a very complex network but when examined closely, do share similarities and hence important factors that must be considered.
Pre-Testing Equipment can give you useful information, from the retinal imaging cameras, OCT machine, visual fields machine and OPD scanners. These modern devices can be connected to your network so you have the images and data immediately, rather than having the results printed out. Some devices do require specific network settings for optimal network communication. Believe it or not, even one misconfigured port on a network switch can take the whole network down and can often be the cause of slow speeds over the network. Consequently, it is important to know about the device’s network interface capabilities and how the network port on the switch should be configured.
Voice over IP (VoIP) has become very popular over the last few years because of the affordability and cost savings on phone bills provided to their customers. Offices that run their voice traffic over the same network as the rest of their data traffic need to consider the configuration of their network to allow for crisp clear voice calls without affecting data transmission, so it is not crawling. These two different types of network traffic should be separated with quality of service given to voice traffic, while still maintaining enough bandwidth to pass data traffic without any sluggishness.
Some offices will choose to have a wireless access point or Wi-Fi to provide to their customers while they are in the waiting room. Even if they secure the access point with a network encryption key (password) and only give patients the password, this is still a security risk if this traffic is not separated from the rest of your network. Not only is it a security risk, users could slow down your network by hogging all the bandwidth. For this reason, it is important to separate these users onto a separate virtual local area network with specific access and limited bandwidth.
This is the end of my three part series on the Paperless Office. I hope the posts helped you think about the why and how of converting to a paperless office. If you have a question or a concern that I did not address, please leave a comment below this blog post. I will follow-up with you directly.
Thanks for reading!