The vision of the “wired senior community” is becoming a reality, with more and more communities requiring connectedness for purposes ranging from the functionality of their CRM to the monitoring of resident’s health and safety. A wide spectrum of applications today are reliant on the IT infrastructure of a senior community and also its parent organization, with even more emerging every day.
Starting an IT Gap Analysis
Senior communities and organizations should always be on the lookout for gaps in their IT backbone. Here are eight facets of a solid IT infrastructure that senior living communities assess during any gap analysis undertaking:
- Network downtime: Network downtime should be avoided at all costs, especially when it’s not the result of planned maintenance. When a network is down, obviously everything that lives on that network is impacted. Network downtime could actually put residents at risk when the downtime disables tools ensuring the safety and wellbeing of residents. Analyze incidents of network downtime over the last six months, the length of the downtime, and its cause. Excessive downtime may call for changes in technology and / or processes that usher in a more reliable outcome.
- Speed and connectivity: For many applications, slow speed can be as bad as network downtime itself. If analysis reveals slow or inconsistent speed on any of your networks, or if staff or residents complain of connectivity issues, the problem should be assessed and addressed as seriously as if it were network downtime.
- Redundancy: Examine aspects of the organization’s IT infrastructure that are single points of failure (SPOFs). SPOFs are points throughout the IT infrastructure, that the whole system is dependent upon such as a server not having dual power sources or multiple hard drives, or anymission critical device not having battery backup power supplies. Knowing what to look for throughout the IT infrastructure and how best to solve SPOFs is a critically important design aspect.
- HIPAA compliance: Senior communities must assure that health information about residents is private and secure from end to end. Access controls, encryption, and a secure data center all play important roles in HIPAA compliance. Equally important is designing, implementing, and adhering to the required HIPAA policies such as the mimimum necessary, acceptable use, and access control standards.
- Security: Security, in general, is a vital aspect of any organization’s IT infrastructure, and HIPAA compliance requirements add an additional layer of complexity. Security has a large footprint in organizations considering it starts with something as simple as a user’s password and goes up to and includes firewall threat logging and data encryption. Communities with any doubts about their IT security and regulatory compliance should consult with senior living IT experts with HIPAA compliance expertise.
- Hardware and computing platforms: Often gaps can be found auditing the hardware at at major points in a system. Take note of aging hardware that may be nearing end of life or exhibiting performance indicative of reaching a failing point. Like senior care itself, a proactive approach is always best. It’s always preferable to replace a component of your IT systems before it has failed rather than after it has caused a minor crisis after failing unexpectedly.
- Data storage: Data should be rapidly accessible, backed up, and secure. Organizations and communities that only store data onsite should consider whether that is the most efficient and secure option, as today’s best practices generally call for both onsite and offsite data storage.
- Scalability: To the degree possible, a community’s IT infrastructure should be positioned to support emerging technologies that support a community’s operations or its care. For example, many communities are adopting passive remote monitoring, but these data and network intensive solutions require a community to have, or to implement, community wide connectivity via enterprise class wireless or wired networks, combined with high speed commercial grade ISP connectivity.