NHS Quality of Service techniques -the implementation isn’t over

Published 05/04/2019 by Ric Thompson, Managing Director, Health & Care, Advanced

The 4th Industrial Revolution has propelled technology into the foreground of our daily lives; there’s an app for almost everything, or at least it seems that way. However, we need to put that technology into context; we have to teach it to prioritise by importance. A network doesn’t comprehend that a social media app cannot take precedence over an analysis-based app that supports rapid decision-making. We have to implement rules that can direct the traffic and enable the network to function as if it does appreciate the context. A Quality of Service needs ensuring and delivering.

Quality of Service is defined by Gartner as ’a negotiation contract between a user and a network provider that renders some degree of reliable capacity in the shared network’. In essence, Quality of Service rules define the priority apps on your network. You can rank all apps accessed by your organisation and tell the network which ones it needs to let work over others. This ensures mission-critical apps consistently work, even if it has to be instead of another one. Whatever you prioritise can consistently have the highest bandwidth and lowest latency, fully supporting your work. This is achieved though the managing the delay, delay variation (jitter), bandwidth and packet loss parameters on a network. 

Within the health and care sector, apps are enabling secure, round-the-clock, collaborative working as well as making timely decisions during medical emergencies. These apps play roles of such importance that they need to be a priority within the traffic on the relevant network. With a network not being able to appreciate this itself and prioritise capacity accordingly, Quality of Service techniques must be implemented.

NHS Digital has already developed Quality of Service techniques across the Health and Social Care and N3 networks. There is a 6-layer model that segments the network traffic into different classes. These are applied as ‘markings’ to data packets and show the network what needs to be prioritised in the event of network congestion. The different classes also have percentages that determine the minimum amount of bandwidth that is reserved for each class. This means that the network can consistently work to appropriately support the apps that support the work of medical teams. This is a fantastic development for communications between practices!

However, this is not replicated within NHS organisations on their internal networks. This means that internally, applications are not prioritised and those that are irrelevant to patient care can negatively affect apps that are essential to the provision of care. It is dangerously inappropriate for a music app to cause a patient record-sharing app to lag or shut down completely - but for many it is currently possible. The solution is clear: NHS organisations need to take what they are doing externally and apply itt to internal networks in order to deliver safe and efficient care.

As the world becomes more and more digitised, organisations across all sectors need to look at how technology supports their work. It isn’t enough that you use an app, your network needs to act as if it understands exactly what that app does for you. Implementing Quality of Service to your network and instructing its handling of your apps ensures your internal end users and external service users get exactly what they need from your organisation at all times.

For support around implementing Quality of Service techniques on your network, contact our specialists now: itsolutions@oneadvanced.com.