Understanding Your Practice’s Internet Bandwidth

Medical practice technologies are rapidly moving to the Internet, or “cloud”.  Specifically, nearly all Electronic Health Record (EHR) and Practice Management (PM) applications are now delivered via the Internet.  Other medical practice technologies are also moving in the same direction, such as telemedicine and remote monitoring applications as well as Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS).  As more applications rely on Internet access and capacity, it is important to expand capacity as necessary.

Definition:  Bandwidth is a commonly used term to measure how the capacity of your Internet connection, which is often directly correlated with the speed and performance that you experience.  FYI – it’s also common to hear the term “Internet Speed” used in place of the term Bandwidth.  Bandwidth units are expressed in Megabits Per Second (Mbps), often called “megs”.  Generally speaking, the larger the Mbps, the greater the bandwidth, the greater the speed.

What are Upload and Download and why are they important?

The answer goes back to the purpose of the Internet (now often referred to as “the Cloud”), which is to move data/information electronically through a complex global web of telecommunication cables connecting consumer and business users around the world.  This data/information is “sent” and “received” by Internet users.  Sent information is “Uploaded” to the Internet.  Received information is “Downloaded” from the Internet.  When you search for information on the Internet, you receive this information via Download.

  • Upload = To Send Info
  • Download = To Receive/Access Info

Consumers most commonly discuss Internet bandwidth in terms of Download bandwidth because the vast majority of Internet users are searching the web and therefore Downloading information.  Examples of consumer Downloading/streaming services include: Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, Hulu, etc.  Average Internet users rarely Upload or send much information to the Internet. Examples of consumer Uploading include: Sending Email, Online Gaming, Video Conference, any data entry task.

However, medical practices’ reliance on Upload capacity is often much greater than a typical consumer. This extra reliance on Upload bandwidth is due to various medical devices that are used for clinical purposes.  These clinical devices are increasingly electronic and connected to the Internet, thereby requiring the nearly continuous Uploading of information to the Internet.  Examples of such Internet-based (cloud-based) devices include:

  • Scheduling, EHR and Billing software systems
  • PACS
  • Document Scanning
  • Virtual Dictation/Scribes
  • Virtual Office visits
  • Phone Systems
  • Business Video Conferencing

All of the above technologies rely on consistent and reliable Upload capacity as much or more so than Download capacity.

Test Your Bandwidth

There are several websites available to test both your upload and download speeds.

Click here to test your speed.

If you have limited bandwidth options or want to maximize how your bandwidth is utilized, here are some suggestions:

  • Schedule your clinical devices to Upload/Send information after normal business hours.
  • Have the Internet Upload traffic prioritized by device, with the most important devices getting the most Upload bandwidth.
  • During business hours minimize video chatting when possible.
  • Never allow online gaming to occur on your business network.
  • Limit or eliminate unnecessary social media access, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
  • Limit or eliminate unnecessary streaming music or video services.

Conclusion:

When you consider what Internet capacity you need for various activities, you should:

  • Understand that the typical medical office is transforming into an Internet/Cloud connected enterprise that requires a consistent symmetric Internet capacity where the Upload and Download speeds are equivalent.
  • When considering your Internet capacity needs, consider both Download and Upload requirements.

Work with network specialists, and hard data from your system and equipment vendors, to determine your bandwidth needs to the highest level of accuracy and purchase only what you need.

This article was contributed by Harry Curley, CEO, StreamlineMD

David Schmiege is the President and CEO of Vein Specialists of America. Your ideas for future articles can be submitted to David via email at [email protected] or by phone at (630) 455-4528.

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