Strategy of converging networks
The IT business segment of the Münster University Clinic (UKM) is working on a groundbreaking project
The IT of the clinics of the future is faced with substantial challenges. Not only are huge amounts of data generated by new imaging processes, but these also need to be processed, presented, stored and archived. Now, at first glance this might not appear to be anything unusual. Of course, this is true for the data of a patient staying at the University Clinic. However, when the data of this patient is to be stored for the duration of said patient‘s life and if in addition also all the data that was not generated at the clinic is - in our example - to be stored in the patient‘s file, then the whole is becoming a challenge that can only be mastered with great difficulty.
These data have to be made available to all areas of the clinic as well as to doctors for further examinations. The implementation of the European medical record is performed in accordance with the Directive 2011/24/EU. According to this Directive, a central European medical records system has to be established by 2020. This means that after a corresponding release of the exam data by the patient/doctor, the data is to be made available all across Europe. Independent of the numerous legal and security issues, the clinics have to face the technical challenges.
The multi-layered clinic communications furthermore suggest that their heterogeneous infrastructure and data landscape be re-evaluated. The UKM (Universitätsklinikum Münster) has taken on these challenges in a large-scale consolidation project. The consultants of noventum consulting GmbH are supporting this project. novum spoke with Katja Kümmel, Director of IT at the UKM.
novum: What are, in your opinion, the opportunities for implementing an integrated overall solution for clinic communications?
Katja Kümmel: The UKM is striving for implementing such an integrated overall solution. For this, you have to know that the communications at a university clinic are extremely multi-layered and are currently implemented in heterogeneous structures. Telephone systems, cordless phones, IT networks with KIS (the Clinic Information System), Wireless LAN for the „Mobile Rounds“, nurse call, and other communications systems are, at present, often in an extremely heterogeneous state with respect to reachability in general and performance in particular. Internet access for patients, patient and clinic TV, billing systems for telephone, TV, cafeteria and parking garage, intercom systems with and without video surveillance, building services, alarm systems and the option to perform video conferences – the IT-supported technology at a large clinic is extremely multi-faceted.
To reconcile the services mentioned in a single convergent network, migration and integration have to be planned on numerous levels.
The UKM (Universitätsklinikum Münster) has decided to face these challenges. As such, the project „Convergent Network Strategy“ has been dealing with reconciling the proprietary clinic network into a single IP-based network and has illustrated a path for how we can create an integrated overall solution.
novum: What do you mean in this context by convergent networks?
Katja Kümmel: Convergent networks – this buzzword describes the systematic conflation of different applications and services on an IP-based network (Internet Protocol) with a standardised infrastructure. By creating a comprehensive, integrated infrastructure that provides sufficient functionality for time-critical applications while fulfilling the data security and data protection requirements, the „convergent network“ is not only a solution for applications in the medical field but is also setting standards for healthcare as a whole. It is comprehensive and convergent, flexible, secure, quick to respond, and interactive. It provides a stable, high-availability infrastructure that allows for an efficient communication for the medical and technical staff working both in the clinical area and outside of it, as well as for patients.
novum: Which objectives does the UKM pursue with this strategy?
Katja Kümmel: The UKM wants:
Optimised administration, maintenance and communication processes across the clinic
Achieve leaner cost structure and lower overall expenses for communications infrastructure and network technology
A shared LAN/WLAN infrastructure for telephone, „Mobile Round“, localisation and patient monitoring
Allow for an easy and cost-effective integration of additional clinics / nursing facilities into the existing communications system
Easy and cost-effective redundancy of the systems in the network and in the data centre
An increase in data security through centralisation of the control system at the data centre, and
Allow for a standardised, central monitoring of the whole convergent networks being created
novum: Does such a network strategy, in addition to posing a technical challenge, also require political support?
Katja Kümmel: Yes, it does. A planning, coordination and implementation sequence designed for a period of many years requires perseverance and sustained support not only by the executive management of UKM, but also by all parties involved. The organisational and planning hurdles posed by the objective of a convergent network strategy are extremely high. The multitude of technical components is reflected in an at least equally complex decision-making and responsibility structure. To unite the multitude of the instances and shareholders involved behind a joint goal is a task with political as well as psychological ramifications. To take into consideration the statutorily required and societally desired aspects in the area of data security is only one of numerous challenging tasks.
The network technology development, the statutory framework data, the development of medical technology and a large number of ‚soft‘ factors of modern day-to-day clinic business mark the scope and claim of such a consolidation project.
novum: Thank you very much for the interview.