Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Facilitiating Communication

One of the most challenging parts of being in the medical networking field is the people interaction aspect of the job. There are often times where as the in-house technician you need to manage multiple people from rival companies to reach a common goal. It is often the case that interactions between rival companies trying to get equipment to communicate can end in a mud slinging festival. It’s all “It’s that guys machine that is the problem” from both sides. There is a need for serious people skills as well as troubleshooting skills when it comes to these situations.

I have now made it my personal mission to create as much documentation as possible to assist all the parties involved to come to the correct outcomes as quickly as possible. The documents that I am currently compiling are a combination of networking documentation, policy documents and medical network documentation. With these documents implemented the process of installing new equipment should run smoothly from the communication and networking perspective.

Networking Documentation

This document which my new apprentice has compiled is basically a listing of all the networking devices as well as their IP and MAC addresses. The process of collecting this information is made easy by having a network scanner such as superscan and using the Windows XP command line utility ARP. Super scan allows you to do a ping sweep to show all networking devices IP Addresses and host names. Please note that this tool will not pick up devices with a firewall enabled and it may also be registered as a hacking tool by certain anti virus applications. Please use this tool responsibly. You will also need to make sure that if you have machines on other subnets that all their default gateway addresses and such are set correctly otherwise they will not be seen by the scanner. I suggest that you should run the tool on a machine on the local subnet, just in case there are any machines that aren’t setup correctly.

ARP is a Windows XP command line tool that allows you to view that MAC address information of the devices that your computer has been in contact with. What you can do to find out the MAC address of a remote computer is ping it and then run the command arp –a. This command will show you all the information in the Address Resolution Protocol table (i.e. the mapping of IP Addresses to MAC addresses.). Please also note that if you have a multiple sites with routers interconnecting them you will need to run the ARP command on the subnet of the computer you wish to find the MAP address of or else you will only receive the MAC address of the router interface your subnet connects to the other subnet.

Policy Documents

These are still a work in progress, but I am intending on creating a set of guidelines for third party vendors to assist in the installation and configuration of networked devices. This will basically outline guidelines for IP Address ranges that are reserved for their devices, listing of DNS servers, Default Gateway Settings, Etc. The other document that I wish to create is a basic short-list of information requirements that the IT department needs when new equipment is purchased or considered for purchase (i.e. Number of network points required, Remote access requirements, DICOM, etc.). This document is basically something that can be used by the higher up management during the negotiation and purchase process to ensure that they consider the Information technology view point when considering new devices. This document can be handed to the vendors and passed on to their technical departments who can fill it out and send it back to us so we are all on the same page when it comes to the day when all the communication is configured.

Medical Network Documentation

This is all the DICOM information about all the DICOM enabled devices on the network. This includes AE Titles, IP Addresses, DICOM port Numbers, Logical names as well as contact information for the vendor who manages the device in question. This document can be given to the technicians responsible for setting up the DICOM communications between modalities, PACS servers and DICOM printers.