Major hospitals are diversifying their communication network after Severance Hospital, one of the largest general hospitals in Korea, saw its internet and phone connection cut off Saturday.
The blackout was the result of a fire at one of the underground network cable centers, one of the largest Korean mobile and internet providers, in western Seoul.
During the blackout, Severance Hospital suffered greatly as all of its modern technology such as its hospital in-call and emergency room payment system shut down.
According to hospital employees, the hospital had to use speakers installed in the hospital all day to call medical workers.
The hospital uses both KT and SKT providers for its internal network. After the fire at KT’s telecom switching center, the hospital managed to restore its in-hospital prescription system but failed to the restart its emergency room payment and outpatient prescription, which forced patients visiting the hospital to wait 30 to 40 minutes.
Although it was not possible to make a reservation and receive services through the hospital’s website and landline, the hospital said the medical treatment for the patients visiting the hospital and the emergency care center proceeded normally.
However, further inquiry into Severance Hospital by the Korean Doctors' Weekly, the sister paper of Korea Biomedical Review, revealed that the fire had also caused a communication error in the e-mail network between the hospital and Gangnam Severance Hospital.
“I thought it was strange that email did not work suddenly from noon Saturday,” an employee at Gangnam Severance Hospital said. “Later, I realized that this was due to the fire at the KT cable network.”
The impact on Gangnam Severance was minimal, but it seemed to be less confusing as it was over the weekend, the official said. It would have been very confusing if there was a fire on Monday, he added.
An official from Severance Hospital also urged the government to come up with countermeasures in case of a similar event.
“The hospital thinks that it would be a good idea to have a system to cope with computer problems caused by external factors,” the employee said. “However, it is difficult for the hospital to set up a system on its own.”
The government needs to help hospitals come up with measures to deal with such problems, he added.
Other major hospitals have already held meetings to diversify their communication network.
Asan Medical Center said that it has set up communication lines at two underground network cable center so that it can switch if there is a problem at one of them.
Seoul National University Hospital is also using two mobile and internet providers.
“Although our phone line is SKT, we also have internal phones that use KT in case of emergencies,” a hospital official said. “Also, we have run two networks as we contracted with both SKT and KT two years ago.”
Therefore, except for the mobile phone networks, the hospital has a system that can be maintained even if one side goes down, he added.
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