Even if you haven’t yet made the leap to full electronic medical records (EMR) implementation, chances are you’re already using a computerized system for scheduling, billing, or other administrative functions. And unless you only have one computer in the office, it’s likely that the computers are connected by some sort of network.
For these types of basic administrative functions, a simple network configuration is more than sufficient. However, if full-scale EMR implementation is on the horizon for your practice, it’s vital to ensure that your network design is robust enough to handle the complexity of a multi-user, multitasking system. To help you get a better feel for the basics of network design and how yours could be improved, we’ll take a look at a few of the most common options.
LAN or WAN?
A LAN (local area network) connects network devices such as computers or printers across a small distance, such as within an office or school. If more flexibility is needed, the LAN can then be linked up to other LANs, via network wire or a wireless connection. If the geographical distances to be spanned are greater, the connection will likely be made using a WAN (wide area network) configuration.
Because LANs are relatively simple network designs, they can often easily be set up using the basic hardware that can be purchased in consumer electronic stores, along with widely available software such as Windows XP. However, some EPM/EMR software applications may have issues of compatibility with certain types of networking hardware and operating system software—make sure you double-check for potential compatibility problems before making a final purchase decision.
If your practice’s offices span a large region, a WAN configuration may be right for you. WANs are usually maintained by larger businesses or utility companies. The most popular example of a WAN in the world today is the Internet. Apart from its entertainment value, the Internet can also serve as the backbone for a company intranet that employees can use to communicate with each other or with practice resources from wherever they happen to be. For EMR/EMP systems that need to connect between multiple satellite offices, a guaranteed high-bandwidth connection is critical to avoid the possibility of the entire practice grinding to a halt.
Now that you know a bit more about the basics of network design, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions that will allow you to make the leap to full-scale EMR implementation. Even if you decide that an EMR/EMP is not the best option for your practice at this point, you can still optimize your administrative efficiency with a solid network design.