Quickly identifying network issues and remedying them continue to challenge most organizations. In a recent survey by ServiceNow and Healthcare Dive's studioID, of 128 healthcare IT professionals, one in four said they had trouble identifying the impact to critical services affected by an outage.
This type of network-visibility challenge plagues healthcare organizations because the network's dynamically changing environment makes manual mapping time-consuming and almost instantly outdated. However, automated service-mapping applications now make it possible to have an accurate, up-to-date view of hospital services without the pain of manual mapping.
Here's a deeper dive into how automated service mapping works and how your healthcare organization can benefit.
Understanding automated service mapping
Automated service mapping uses two integrated applications. The first focuses on discovering all physical and logical configuration items (CI), such as virtual machines, databases, applications, and servers. The second then builds on the discovered infrastructure to quickly identify all CIs that make up the service and then creates an end-to-end service map.
Three ways to create service maps automatically:
- Using patterns to detect attributes of devices and apps.
- Using asset tags to drive the creation of service maps.
- Using network traffic connections to detect assets and the relationships between them.
Of these three, using patterns is the most prevalent. Though the pattern method may take some time and effort, it will yield precise and complete application services that reliably represent the service-aware view of your organization's IT infrastructure. The preference for this method is, in part, because an organization may not have a complete set of asset tags.
Automated service mapping can trace hospital services across your entire IT and clinical environments, not just one or two technology domains. And mapping services can be done in hours instead of the weeks or months it often takes to do it manually. Finally, because the mapping is automated, the system can update topologies and incorporate changes as they occur within the network environment, ensuring that you always have an up-to-date view of your services.
The benefits of automated service mapping
Automated service mapping dramatically reduces the time you have to spend manually mapping services. But there are numerous other benefits beyond the time savings, including:
Less reliance on domain experts
Typically, domain expertise is required to leverage individual tools specific to areas of expertise, such as servers, apps, or network storage. However, automated service mapping eliminates this.
"Automated service mapping takes the complexity out of understanding your environment and significantly reduces the load on domain experts," said Don Tierney, healthcare chief architect at ServiceNow. "It also reduces the risk to the organization because they are able to be less reliant on the knowledge held by a few individuals."
Quickly pinpoint IT system disruptions
As noted earlier, pinpointing network issues challenges many healthcare organizations. But automated service mapping, which uses pattern recognition, can identify abnormalities present in the network. The added visibility automated service mapping provides also makes it easier to pinpoint the specific component in a service that is having an issue.
For example, many healthcare organizations use VDI to deliver EHR applications to their clinicians. However, it's not uncommon for these types of servers that deliver these capabilities to have performance issues over time. Using pattern recognition, an automated service-mapping application can continually monitor the network and its endpoints to identify when devices or systems are performing abnormally. And when anomalies are detected, the application can automatically alert the appropriate IT staff so the issue can be quickly remedied.
Get to the root cause of a service issue
According to the survey, 54% of healthcare IT professionals conceded that they often struggled to diagnose the root cause when dealing with network outages.
"When you have an IT organization that may be siloed, in terms of domains of expertise, and everyone has their own tools to monitor environments and diagnose issues, it becomes quite a task to look across an organization’s IT departments and home in on an issue," Tierney noted.
Because automated service mapping relies on a CMBD and uses dashboards to view the data, everyone is looking at a common set of data, which puts them on the same page and makes it faster and easier to diagnose the root cause.
Faster time to issue resolution
Almost half (41%) of healthcare IT professionals acknowledged having challenges with remedying service issues. However, automated service mapping can help dramatically cut the time to identify network issues and resolve them.
"This is where an automated mapping solution like ServiceNow's ITOM can really shine," Tierney said. "Finding, analyzing, and resolving an issue is a workflow problem — and that's our whole mission — to make workflows simpler."
Using machine-learning models, the application can detect anomalies and even apply automation to address the issue, such as automatically routing the incident to the appropriate team to handle the issue. In some cases, it's possible to automate the remediation of an issue directly.
For example, if a server were to incur a "memory leak," when a process on that server runs and doesn't clean up the memory after it runs, as a consequence the performance of the server begins to degrade. With an automated service-mapping solution, such as ITOM, an organization can now quickly detect this abnormality and can then automatically perform tasks, such as rebooting the server and automatically notifying everyone that it will be rebooting the server, minimizing or even avoiding a service outage altogether.
More visibility, faster remediation
Automated service mapping, especially when combined in one platform that handles all network-monitoring aspects, provides you with increased visibility across your network. As a result, you can quickly identify and remedy issues, which means less downtime on your network and happier clinicians.