August 28, 2020By Lance Baily

IT Networks 101: An Intro for Healthcare Simulation Professionals

Healthcare Simulation usually relies on functioning IT networks to a great degree. Simulation programs will find that working directly with IT departments a core requirement to starting or expanding their use of medical simulation technologies. Having a Sim Tech, or a Healthcare Simulation Technology Specialist, supporting your IT efforts as a simulation center liaison to your institution’s IT department will help to reduce confusion, increase communication, and improve active functionality on a consistent basis. As such, here we take a closer look at Chapter 14 “The Healthcare Simulation Technology Specialist and Information Technology” in the new Springer published book Comprehensive Healthcare Simulation: Operations, Technology, and Innovative Practice. This new leading resource for professionals is perfect for starting or expanding their use of the emerging methodology to improve learning, training, and patient safety outcomes. This chapter was was written by Eduardo Luevano from the Department of Emergency Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Science Center in El Paso and William Morton from the Department of Information Technology Services at Des Moines University, and supported by editorial work by members of the SimGHOSTS non-profit board of directors.

This chapter provides readers with an overview of IT terminology, infrastructure, and its application to the healthcare simulation environment. Many simulation centers are part of larger institutional systems and therefore connection and integration for these centers will be guided and governed by existing IT personnel and policies. Smaller centers may have much less robust infrastructure and function more closely to that of a small business or home network infrastructure. Regardless of the type of network structure or availability of onsite support, simulation hardware and software will need to communicate and function in order to provide simulation-based education at any center. Understanding the basics of IT terminology and systems will empower a healthcare simulation technology specialist (HSTS) to troubleshoot and work with vendors or institutional IT personnel to set up, grow, and troubleshoot computer and technology-related systems.

The HSTS should strive to establish a genuine relationship with the IT department, and to do so it is important to understand and know networking fundamentals. The book then goes on to describe the various types of networks required by a simulation centre, including a Local Area Network (LAN), Campus Area Network (CAN), and Wide Area Network (WAN). While the first two are self explanatory, a WAN covers when the computers are farther apart and are operated by different organizations, typically connected by a third-party internet service provider (ISP).

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Beyond the geographic region or size of a network, understanding how each computer connects to the system is also of fundamental importance. This connection is either through a physical network cable or through a wireless network connection. IT security and/or a server administrator will frequently be present when evaluating or expanding any design involving the network IT department. Network security is a very important consideration that is much easier to implement at the same time a new network is established. The chapter then dives into the different hardware components in greater detail covering the different types of cables, routers, and network switches needed to connect and interface various network types. As well, Power over Ethernet (PoE) is covered which is when an ethernet cord is used to provide electrical power over a network cable to a remote device, such as an IP based camera or Voice over IP (VoIP) phone which may be located in an area that does not have any power outlets available or where additional wires are undesirable.

Following this, the chapter covers the important of knowing about IP addresses and their subnet masks. A subnet, short for subnetwork, is a method used for partitioning a network into smaller networks. An example of a partitioned network is shown in Fig. 14.4. Partitioning allows a simulation center to create a set of smaller segmented net- works, within a larger network. For the intermediate and advanced network designer, subnetting is much more than segmenting devices onto different networks. It is important to understand that a router will allocate IP addresses within a defined range for any designated network via DHCP. When a device is connected to a network, regardless of whether it is hardwired or wireless, it is given an IP address (like a mailing address) to identify and communicate on the network. Nearly all computers and simulation equipment use Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses. IPv4 addresses are in the form xxx., where each set of three Xs (called an octet) forms a number between 0 and 255 allowing for 256 (28) unique numbers per octet.

Cords and routers aren’t enough though, we also need servers, which could be physical, virtual, SaaS, or cloud-based. Servers are high-end computers designed to be highly reliable and powerful to run resource intensive software applications. Traditionally, servers were individual physical machines; however, in the past decade there has been a strong shift toward virtualization and cloud hosting. If your simulation environment is part of a larger organization, there is a good chance a virtual server environment or cloud environment is already available, and IT can help provision a new server in short order. Virtual servers operate on the premise that multiple software-based servers are able to share the same physical hardware. Cloud hosted servers run in a remote datacenter, such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon EC2, and require an internet connectivity to access. Cloud hosting is a pay-per-use model; instead of having to pay for all the equipment upfront, you only pay for the server resources as you use them.

The remaining chapter goes into greater detail covering remote connections, digital security measures, databases, storage, specialized patient simulator connection devices for networked manikins, and more. This entire chapter is a must-read for any clinical simulation coordinator tasked with helping to manage the IT networks or other digital networks of their sim lab!

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More Key Take Aways From Latest Simulation Operations Book Include:

  • Practical guide helps prepare professionals for the broad scope of simulation in healthcare
  • Defines the domains of medical simulation operations
  • Focuses on the development of the healthcare simulation technology specialist
  • Written and edited by leaders in the field of clinical simulation

Written and edited by leaders in the field, Comprehensive Healthcare Simulation: Operations, Technology, and Innovative Practice is optimized for a variety of learners, including healthcare educators, simulation directors, as well as those looking to pursue a career in simulation operations as healthcare simulation technology specialists. Grab your copy today through our affiliate commissioned links:

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