Information Technology and Network Collapse

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CareGroup was born in late 1996 from the merger of several hospitals in eastern Massachusetts. Intense financial pressure and competitiveness in the healthcare community was the driving force for the merger. As the second largest hospital group in the area, CareGroup was now a formidable force in the medical cost war that included healthcare providers and employers.

The Network Collapse

While most companies are not completely "paperless," many organizations use technologies such as electronic faxing, on-line ordering, and document archiving for transactions that once required paper. As the push for a paperless work environment continues, the dependence on stable and secure IT infrastructures significantly increases.

CareGroup embraced paperless medicine, from electronic medical records to digitized x-rays; technology was fundamental to hospital operations. When CareGroup's network collapsed in November 2002, the CIO immediately marshaled resources to contain the effect and get the affected systems operational.

Underlying Cause
The source of the collapse was an "out of spec" network. CareGroup integrated its multiple operating systems into a state-of-the-art IT system. However, not well managed were the incremental changes to the network. This lack of control compromised the paths over which data flowed. That, combined with an experimental application that had been left unmonitored in a production environment, were the underlying causes for the network failure.

How It Could Have Been Avoided
CareGroup's adoption of two key IT policies could have thwarted the network collapse: formal oversight of network changes and prohibition against developers testing in a production environment.

Lessons Learned

The most enduring lessons are often a result of mistakes that affect many people or created significant hardship. The CareGroup network collapse impacted hospital staff, patients and critical...
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