• United States
by Christopher Rose

Failing health

Dec 16, 20023 mins

Readers sound off on a hospital network collapse, the real definition of broadband and the need for speed.

As someone who has worked in hospital IT for almost eight years, I was not surprised by the problems detailed in your story Hospital sounds alarm after 3-day struggle. In my five years as network administrator at my current employer, I have found that 75% of the IT problems we face come from poorly designed and tested healthcare software. The healthcare-specific applications available to hospitals seem to be of mediocre or poor quality compared with other industry-specific software. This is because the healthcare software development cycle is driven from the end user/features perspective more than from the technical/IT perspective. My current software vendors are more concerned about cramming in new features than fixing problems in existing software. And don’t even ask about application integration — we’re lucky if we can get applications to work alone.

Christopher Rose

Lead network specialist

Liberty Hospital

Liberty, MO.

In Hospital sounds alarm after 3-day struggle the statement: “The incident at Beth Israel Deaconess underscores the importance of back-up systems” misses the real issue. Apparently, there is not a change-management system in place at the hospital, or else it was totally circumvented. The application should have gone through a change-management review process and should have been tested in a pilot lab environment first. The hospital would have discovered that the “compute-intensive” software was going to be a bandwidth hog and could have taken steps to avoid a network outage.

Joe McDowell

I was surprised to read in your story What is broadband? that broadband is officially pegged by the Federal Communications Commission at 200K bit/sec, and Intel President and CEO Craig Barrett calls it at 100M bit/sec. For at least the 10 years I’ve been in IT, broadband has referred to technology that can carry multiple channels or services on one physical medium (for example, digital data and analog voice on a twisted pair), not transmission speeds. Because the word has been taken for another use, what word now means what broadband used to mean?

Don Rea

Web application developer

Bucknell University

Lewisburg, PA

I had to do a double-take when I read William Dennett’s letter in which he states: “. . . human beings cannot in any way process information presented at gigabit speeds.” It brought back memories of a lecture Bob Metcalfe gave a decade ago on the invention of Ethernet, in which he had to contend with critics proclaiming, “Nobody can possibly read faster than 300 bit/sec.”

Of course we’ll get Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop, for the same reason that we use 2-GHz CPUs when 200 MHz would be adequate. We’re not buying bandwidth here, we’re buying pain relief: A 2-second delay compared with 12 seconds when playing with 100M-byte files is worth the extra $85 per switched port.

Daniel Smith

San Jose