Paessler PRTG uses DICOM to monitor the distributed infrastructure of LAKUMED Kliniken
The Landshut Municipal Enterprise for Medical Care (LAKUMED Clinics) is the largest medical service provider in the Landshut region of Germany, and one of the most successful providers in all of Bavaria. LAKUMED Clinics is composed of three hospitals (Landshut-Achdorf, Vilsbiburg, and Rottenburg), the Schloss-Reha Rottenburg Clinic for follow-up treatment after orthopedic and accident-related surgeries, and a hospice.
1,600 employees, including highly specialized doctors and experienced nurses, are available for patients. In total, LAKUMED Clinics has more than 630 beds. Every year, more than 85,000 patients receive inpatient and outpatient care at LAKUMED facilities. Landshut-Achdorf Hospital is also the teaching hospital for the Technical University of Munich, and the only hospital in the region with the four major subjects (internal medicine, surgery, gynecology, anesthesiology) involved in the teaching and training of medical students. All three hospitals are fully certified in accordance with DIN ISO 9001:2008.
“The best thing about PRTG is that it provides for simple and effective monitoring, all the while respecting the security requirements of manufacturers. PRTG is so easy to use, that many of our monitoring tasks are now handled by our interns. We will definitely expand our use of the software in the future.”
Karsten Boettger, Head of IT at LAKUMED Clinics
Health check for the network
For service companies with multiple locations, digitization offers many exciting new opportunities. In the case of LAKUMED Clinics, digital patient data can be accessed at all LAKUMED locations. For example, a patient who moves from one of the hospitals to the rehabilitation clinic benefits from having his or her medical data (including the course of a disease) accessible by the personnel of the rehab clinic. The staff of LAKUMED Clinics can access all relevant data quickly and easily, without having to request it from a colleague at another location.
However, this win-win situation for patients and doctors is only possible under one (major) condition: the IT of LAKUMED Clinics must be networked across all the locations – as well as function perfectly at all times as a system failure could be fatal. This is where network monitoring comes in: with a network monitoring tool, IT managers can stay continually informed of the status of their network. Which hard drives are overloaded? What kind of data is located where? How fast (and reliable) is the Internet connection? Did the last backup go according to plan? A network monitoring tool can answer these questions and more.
Security makes uniform monitoring difficult
Hospitals are subject to particularly stringent requirements when it comes to availability and security. IT managers must therefore take measures to protect their network environment(s) from unauthorized access and attacks, as well as failures. The same goes for the manufacturers of medical devices. With many of these devices, certain actions (e.g., remote access to an internal hard drive) are not possible for security reasons. Instead, the manufacturer provides its own tool for this purpose. Many medical devices (some mobile) from a variety of different manufacturers are in use at the sites. For some of these devices, the respective manufacturer offers a rudimentary monitoring solution. However, this means the IT team must access each of the different solutions to obtain a comprehensive overview. In a hospital setting, the monitoring of medical devices from different manufacturers with a single monitoring tool is not possible, or only possible with a great deal of difficulty.
Such was the case at LAKUMED Clinics, until a trainee in the IT department came up with a brilliant idea: as part of his final thesis, he decided to implement the network monitoring tool PRTG Network Monitor at the hospitals. For the trainee, the choice of tools was easy: PRTG is extremely easy to use, and its costs can be conveniently planned in advance thanks to its flexible licensing model. In addition, the manufacturer Paessler supplies more than 200 predefined queries (so-called “sensors”) with the tool. Finally, the software comes with a built-in API that allows for the creation of custom sensors. With these sensors, the already outstanding functionality of the tool can be expanded to meet one’s own individual needs. PRTG therefore proved to be the perfect tool for his project.
The overall implementation of PRTG went extremely smoothly. A test environment was set up before PRTG was configured as part of the final thesis. In this environment, PRTG was used solely with its standard sensors. A little later, the software was customized to also monitor the most important functions of the devices that were usually off limits. Many of these devices use the “Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine” (DICOM) standard for communication. As a result, sensors were created that use the DICOM standard and can handle its basic features. When a medical imaging device (such as an ultrasound machine) creates a digital image, the corresponding file is saved on an internal hard drive. When the hard drive is full, its data must be copied to another storage device or deleted from the drive before further use.
But how will the admin know that the drive is full? The IT team at LAKUMED Clinics used a simple trick: they knew the approximate size of the image data, as well as the size of the internal hard drive. As a result, they calculated the number of images the device could create before the hard drive was full. Using a command from the DICOM standard, the sensor can now list all the image files on the hard drive. PRTG has been configured to automatically notify the IT team when the list exceeds the maximum number of entries. “The best thing about PRTG is that it provides for simple and effective monitoring, all the while respecting the security requirements of manufacturers,” asserts Karsten Boettger, Head of IT at LAKUMED Clinics.
PRTG replaces the mishmash of tools
The advantage was clear: in the past, it was impossible (or only possible via the manufacturer’s monitoring solution) to detect when a device was out of memory and therefore unable to provide a service. With PRTG , the IT team at LAKUMED Clinics can monitor the memory of all devices with a single tool, and immediately free up memory as needed. Of course, this would also be possible by monitoring with the various tools of each of the different device manufacturers. But having to keep an eye on multiple tools at the same time is far from ideal for any IT team. “PRTG consolidates our monitoring data on an easy-to-read dashboard,” explains Karsten Boettger. “This makes life a whole lot easier for the members of the IT team. Since the initial test phase, our use of PRTG has expanded considerably. Today, we use more than 3,000 sensors – not only to monitor hard drives, but also print servers, temperature sensors, and network connections.”
Before introducing PRTG, various vendor-dependent tools were needed in addition to a network monitoring solution. However, these tools could only offer an overview of individual parts of the infrastructure. Today, PRTG provides for a comprehensive and centralized overview of the entire network. “PRTG is so easy to use, that many of our monitoring tasks are now handled by our interns,” concludes Karsten Boettger. “We will definitely expand our use of the software in the future.”
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