Friday, January 10, 2003

Network Meltdown: Your Company May be Next!

When IT fails: Q&A with John Halamka, CIO, CareGroup Healthcare System
by Caroline Broder, iHealthBeat editor, January 9, 2003

When a network outage at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center brought the hospitalís network to a grinding halt for four days in November, workers who once relied on computers to access e-mail, lab results, prescription orders, electronic medical records and billing information were forced to return to the days of paper.

A researcher who had accidentally dumped a large volume of data into the network caused it to flood the system and crash. But John Halamka, CIO Harvard Medical School and Boston-based CareGroup Healthcare System, said the real problem was Beth Israelís network. Beth Israel, which is one of CareGroupís hospitals, has a network that was designed piecemeal and had been patched together when Beth Israel and Deaconess Hospitals merged in 1996. Halamka, who has posted a Web site that explains the technical details of the networkís failure, said the system also relied on old data protocols that couldnít handle the medical centerís data needs...

iHB: What has been the reaction from other hospitals after this incident? I would guess something like this might have happened somewhere before, but wasnít reported.

Halamka: Itís happened hundreds of times before. Twenty of the Fortune 100 companies have called me and told me they had the same thing happen. Iíve been called by a vast number of government agencies, and the same thing has happened to them. No one has talked about this before. They see it as a short coming. Before this happened, most CIOs were not aware that their network was at risk.

Check out Halamka's web site for technical details. You can also listen to NPR coverage of the event.


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