What impact could an IT network failure have on clinical practice?

What impact could an IT network failure have on clinical practice?

Clinical practice increasingly relies on technology that is connected to the internet. Due to the increased threat landscape, the National eHealth Security and Access Framework, highly recommends clearly documenting the potential impacts of a semi or full network failure to enhance preparedness and allow counter measures to be activated.

How prepared is your clinical practice?

Network failures can occur.  In this blog piece, we will briefly highlight some of the causes of a network outage before reviewing some of the potential impacts on clinical practises.

Cyber-attacks are not the only reason for a network outage. Poorly configured networks, bloated firewall with unused ACL entries, VPN failures, link hogs, traffic congestion or inefficient pathways, power failures and/or having a router interface down can all cause a network outage and thus potentially impact clinical services.

The important aspect here is to ascertain the level of impact on clinical practice, to foresee and formulate contingency plans.

In clinical practice;  4 main types of information system could be affected by an IT network failure:

1. Clinical Information Systems

Clinical information systems support patient care delivery, clinical decisions and provide the platform for recording clinical reports. These systems provide quick and reliable access to information in order to guide clinical decision making, distance delivery healthcare and accurate reliable medical informatics.

A network failure affecting these systems can be catastrophic and have a profound effect on patient care. Unlike the financial sector a failure here could result in significant injury or even death.

Without access to medical imaging devices, a reasonable response would be to divert emergency vehicles to facilities further afield, cancelling outpatient operations/appointments which would also create a significant back log for those concerned. It wouldn’t be unusual to see medical practitioners forced to ferry medical files between departments and floors (without the use of the elevators if these have been affected) as they made the best of a critical situation.

Due to the severity, protecting clinical information systems are the highest priority. Ensuring these systems and networks have high performance and network health is paramount.

“In a paperless or low-paper clinical setting, all aspects of patient treatment are      affected when networks fail. PACS and internal medical records stored online are crucial for medical history and surgical planning as well as communicating results to other clinicians… Any temporary delays due to a network outage have a flow-on effect to the work load in subsequent days/weeks.”  

Jess Murphy, Sonographer.

2. Internet and eHealth

Digital health adds a level of convenience to healthcare clinical practise for physicians and patients. If the network has an outage, it is unlikely to be critical but more of an annoyance. Patients may well become disengaged, frustrated and underwhelmed by the clinical service on offer.

If these systems have a network failure due to cyber-attack where personal information is lost or stolen, clinical practitioners must alert industry bodies such as the Cyber Security council of the breach.  It has been reported that hospitals who experience a data breach, also encounter an increased 30-day mortality rate. Pulling personnel away from medical practises to deal with the breach, has a knock-on effect for clinical workflow.

Beyond follow-up implications, reputation and trust can be significantly reduced following a data breach.

3. Administrative Systems

Administrative systems carry out the financial and administrative functions for clinical practises. The impact of financially not transacting can have deeper impacts beyond identifying patients billing through Medicare. Healthcare clinical practises can also be impacted through loss of contracts and devaluation of the business model.

4. Governance systems

These systems are essential for improving clinical quality and safety. Using analytics to support managerial decision making such as clinical risk management and clinical audits. Although a network failure will be frustrating it is not life critical.

Want to assure the reliability and security of your network?


It is imperative that a list of devices, applications and systems are documented as to the level of impact, risk and mechanisms in place to reduce the impact of a network failure. Are you even aware of all the end devices accessing your network?

NetWireless works with their health clients to ensure the risk of a network failure is reduced. Working with you, we understand the importance of protecting the network from overload, lack of redundancy and a cyber-attack.

We are currently offering great rates on our IT Audit which can help identify gaps in your network.

Act now: Book today.

About NetWireless

NetWireless is a multi-disciplinary IT Network and management company specialising in network design, deployment, security and managed services. Speak to our technical consultants today (CALL 1300 324 844) to ensure your infrastructure meets your needs.