Why uptime is critical for healthcare and how to increase yours

Effective and efficient patient care depend on uptime 

In today’s medical offices and clinics, many of the applications and technologies you rely on are now cloud- and internet-based. There are numerous advantages to this for you and your patients, but if you don’t have the uptime you need, it’s almost impossible for you and your team to use these technologies to provide the best quality of care. 

Here are some of the biggest reasons uptime is so important for healthcare organizations, followed by seven concrete ways you can improve your uptime. 

Electronic health and medical records aren’t just a nice-to-have 

To treat your patients safely and effectively, your providers need to be able to access their electronic health/medical records — and update them — at any time, in real time. 

If they can’t, there’s a good chance this downtime will make appointments take longer, introduce potential issues if notes are stored offline, or otherwise affect the patient’s overall experience. 

Telemedicine and virtual care stop without reliable connectivity 

If the internet at your medical office or clinic goes down, so do any virtual appointments your providers were having with patients. And your internet doesn’t even have to go down for your video calls to drop — performance issues like jitter, latency, and packet loss can topple them, too. Odds are, these interrupted appointments will leave you with frustrated patients and backed-up appointments. 

Scheduling is important for both your patients and business 

Internet downtime adds to the challenges your patients and staff face when trying to schedule and manage appointments in real time, via VoIP phones or online. When this key function operates consistently you can avoid frustrating the patients or overwhelming your staff. 

Patient communication shouldn’t be put on hold 

Your team needs a reliable way to communicate with patients and your patients need to reach the team,  to share test results, answer follow-up questions, and provide treatment recommendations. And everyone will be happier and healthier if that communication happens at the right time and without interruption.  

Uptime matters for a lot of other reasons, too 

So many work activities rely on the internet in one way or another. You need reliable uptime to support billing, data, and communicating with a pharmacies, among many business-critical tasks.

Ways you can improve your healthcare organization’s uptime 

Change your connection type 

All connections experience downtime, but some connection types are more reliable than others. Looking at the data from thousands of Bigleaf customers, we found these average uptime rates for different connection types: 

Connection type  Uptime (%) 
Fiber  96.034 
Enterprise Fixed Wireless  95.412 
Cable  95.123 
Copper  93.040 
T1/T3  92.983 
Other Fixed Wireless  92.473 
DSL  89.243 
Cellular  85.251 
Satellite  75.568 

Keep this in mind: a single fiber connection typically has the best uptime at 96%, but the remaining 4% can pencil out to 29 hours of downtime per month. That is a lot of disruption for most businesses — especially for healthcare organizations. So, while upgrading from something like copper or cable to fiber can help, it isn’t enough. Plus, some of these connection types may not even be available in your area, so those particular upgrades wouldn’t be an option. 

Get multiple internet connections 

If you haven’t done it already, get set up with more than one internet connection. That’s one of the most effective ways to improve your uptime. Instead of putting yourself at the mercy of one connection and the average amount of downtime associated with it — at a minimum, 4% for fiber — you can implement two or more connections with a failover option that can take over when your primary connection goes down. Even if you have two connections with lower uptime percentages — like 93% for copper and 85% for cellular — having a backup in place will almost certainly ensure more reliable uptime than if you had a single fiber connection.  

Increase your ISP and last-mile diversity 

If all your connections come from the same ISP or carrier, you may still experience downtime when there’s a problem on that carrier’s network. When the carrier has a problem, it will affect all of your connections. Instead, it’s best to vary the ISPs you have plugged into your sites. You’ll have a better chance of routing around issues when one connection is affected, so you can keep your uptime as close to 100% as possible. 

You’ll also want to consider redundancy in the last mile to your buildings. For example, we recommend using physically diverse paths from unique providers, such as fiber and cable, DSL and wireless, or T1 and cable. That way, if someone with a backhoe accidentally cuts one physical line, you should still have another working internet connection.  

Keep the same IP address when a circuit goes down 

It’s common for companies that are using multiple connections to have one that’s just there as a backup. This is referred to as an active-passive configuration because one of the connections is in use while the other is idle, waiting to be activated only when the primary connection goes down.

While this is certainly better than not having another connection at all, it isn’t ideal. For one thing, you have to pay for a second connection with enough capacity for all your traffic, even though you won’t be using it most of the time. But more importantly, this active-passive configuration means you can’t move traffic between those ISPs without manually changing your IP address. During a manual failover, anyone on a telemedicine or video call, VoIP call, VPN session, or other real-time application will have their call or session drop. Additionally, your users will experience downtime with other cloud and internet applications while you manually change your IP address. 

When you have same-IP address failover, your traffic automatically divert to your second connection and keep your staff and patients from even noticing the switch. This setup will also allow you to leverage an active-active configuration. That’s when you’re using both connections at the same time and traffic is automatically routed down the circuit that will provide the best performance for each application. 

Document and share your disaster recovery plan 

Should your healthcare organization ever experience a disaster — like a flood or power outage — that takes your essential systems down, you’ll almost certainly be able to get things up and running faster if you have a written disaster recovery plan that your staff knows and understands.

Your disaster recovery plan should identify potential problems, lay out steps to take to avoid or solve them, and clarify your team’s roles and responsibilities. When you have a disaster recovery plan for your cloud- and internet-based technologies, you will be much better prepared to handle problems  and minimize the downtime that could disrupt your business operations. 

Consider working with a managed service provider (MSP) 

If you don’t have a dedicated IT team, or they’re stretched thin, enlisting the help of an MSP is one way to improve your uptime and free yourself up from worrying about it. Many of the medical offices, senior living centers, clinics, and other healthcare organizations we work with turned to an MSP to keep their mission-critical technology working at all locations. If you’d like to connect with a great MSP in your area, email us at sales@bigleaf.net and let us know where you’re located. 

Get there faster with SD-WAN and AI 

While you and your team can do many of these things to improve your uptime on your own, you may decide it makes more sense to let an SD-WAN do the heavy lifting so you can focus on other priorities.  

Here at Bigleaf, we combine proven SD-WAN technology with groundbreaking AI software to automatically steer your important application traffic around internet issues. This way you can give your users an ideal experience and maximize your uptime and application performance without spending time creating and updating policies or tweaking manual configurations. To learn more about Bigleaf, check out our product page or request a demo

Is there something you’d add to this list? Email us at stories@bigleaf.net.

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