"Bandwidth" and Why You Need It
The Path to Paperless
"Bandwidth" and Why You Need It
An Internet-use policy helps saves bandwidth.
By Peter J. Polack, M.D., F.A.C.S.
I spoke a while back with the administrator of another ophthalmology practice about the issues of electronic communication between offices. She oversees a single-location practice that was considering installing a local area network using the Internet, but the doctors were reluctant to allow employees to have access to the World Wide Web (this is, of course, another matter in itself). What they should be asking themselves is what sort of network do they plan to have in the future — how much bandwidth will they need?
The term bandwidth has several different meanings depending on its context, be it radio communications or optical physics, or the transfer of data across digital communication systems. For the purposes of our discussion, I am referring to the digital transfer of data.
Why is bandwidth so important?
Whether your practice has a single local area network or multiple office locations, there is a finite amount of data that can be transferred between two computers. Think of this data transfer as water flowing through a pipe. Generally speaking, you can transfer more water (data) if you have more pipes or a larger pipe; it may also be possible to increase the rate of the water flow (packets of data), but this depends on the type of computers or files involved.
If a practice has more than one location, or more importantly is anticipating having more than one location, it is crucial to know what kind of connections are available between them: standard phone line, dedicated phone connection, DSL, or a higher-speed connection through fiber-optic or a utility 'backbone.' This is especially critical if your practice is going to use any kind of imaging systems, requiring viewing of digital images across the office network.
ILLUSTRATOR: MARK HEINE / DEBORAH WOLFE, LTD
Bandwidth Can Be Wasted
Remember that in addition to obvious things such as digital images, which can very quickly eat up your available bandwidth, your practice needs bandwidth for e-mail communication, electronic billing, patient scheduling, and storing and backing up data.
Now, imagine a new front-desk employee who is spending her idle time surfing the Internet and downloading large electronic files such as games or music, without her supervisor's knowledge. Your first hint of inadequate bandwidth will be a call from your business office manager complaining that the electronic reconciliation is not going through because there is some problem with the connection. This also illustrates the need for a well-defined computer and Internet use policy for your employees (search with Google for examples of such policies). Security across these connections is also an important issue and will be addressed in a future column.
|In a multipart series, Dr. Polack is describing how a nine-partner practice, Ocala Eye in Ocala, Fla., with six locations and 140 employees, makes the major transition from paper medical records to EMR. During the course of the series, Dr. Polack will provide readers with a "real-time" look at how the implementation is progressing. This is part 23 of the series.|
There are workplace software programs that can regulate the amount of bandwidth available to specific applications and functions, and even to certain individuals. Applications that are critical to the function of your practice, such as EMR or business office transactions, can have their pre-defined, reserved allotment of bandwidth. This way, if someone leaves his or her computer connected to an Internet radio station, practice revenue won't be affected. OM
Next: Are you spying on your employees?
|Peter J. Polack, M.D., F.A.C.S., is co-managing partner for Ocala Eye, PA. Ocala Eye is a six-location, 10-physician, 140-employee multisubspecialty ophthalmology practice located in Ocala, Fla. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.|
Ophthamology Management, Issue: August 2007