St. Luke's Health Network Empowers IT Users With AppNeta
by Christine Cignoli on

St. Luke’s University Health Network, founded in 1872, is one of Pennsylvania’s leading healthcare organizations, and is home to the oldest school of nursing in the United States. SLUHN is the fastest-growing hospital system in Pennsylvania.

That fast growth means new challenges for the healthcare IT team at St. Luke's, specifically the network engineering team, led by Bryan Smith and Mandy Stauffer. As SLUHN builds new hospitals and adopts cloud-based applications, the network engineering team helps non-technical users on the business teams solve their SaaS app performance problems.

What St. Luke's IT Team Needed

The St. Luke’s healthcare organization has added three hospitals in eight years, making the IT infrastructure and management more complex. Most departments within SLUHN have adopted cloud applications for flexibility and to centralize management as the number of remote offices and medical practices increase. SLUHN includes seven major locations and close to 300 remote locations.

Smith and Stauffer’s network engineering team, part of the overall infrastructure team, provides services to its customers, who are application owners from all different areas of the organization.

Some of the applications they support include:

  • Workday for the HR department
  • ServiceNow for help desk tickets
  • Cornerstone for online training
  • EHR for patient management
  • Financial management app

“Application ownership with the cloud isn’t clear,” Smith says. And since individual application owners at St. Luke’s don’t have IT training or backgrounds, it’s more difficult for them to navigate vendor support as well as troubleshoot issues.

When Smith started looking for a performance monitoring tool, AppNeta Performance Manager and our patented packet train dispersion technology caught his eye. He had also read about a hospital CIO who’d had great success with AppNeta.

Getting Positive Results From Performance Monitoring

The St. Luke’s team takes advantage of AppNeta’s many features, including:

  1. Continuous SaaS monitoring. Since implementing AppNeta, Smith and Stauffer have set up test accounts for each SaaS app in use. They use AppNeta to see traffic patterns and find the cause of any performance issue, and can then explain to the application owners what’s gone wrong in a simple way.
  2. Historical data availability. Smith was especially impressed the first time he saw how quickly AppNeta processed a month’s worth of data. He used it when the organization’s seventh hospital recently opened, and he could see that single sign-on traffic was eating up nearly a third of the bandwidth on the hospital’s 100 MBps uplink. That information led Smith to do some network cleanup at the new hospital location.
  3. End-to-end network visibility. As that new site was getting ready to launch, Stauffer looked at the network hops involved and the change in QoS that occurred over the network for an older legacy application. She made some configuration changes on the network to improve the app’s performance. The utilization improved a lot after those changes, though round-trip time and jitter increased slightly.
  4. Setting performance baselines for new locations. From those experiences, Smith and Stauffer established a process around baselining connections from day one of a new office or location. “We can do the data assessment ahead of time,” Smith says. He also uses AppNeta for in-depth packet inspections in preparing to open a new hospital.
  5. Seeing into cloud-hosted applications. The network engineering team also monitored the cloud-hosted ServiceNow app to get an idea of whether its problems were network-related. Stauffer saw that it was hosted out of the wrong data center on an instance that was too small. The team was able to document the performance changes once ServiceNow moved the cloud app to a larger instance in another data center. The details they got from AppNeta helped confirm the dramatic performance improvement to the application owners inside St. Luke’s.
  6. Uncovering ISP problems. During one “Is it us, or is it our ISP?” situation, Stauffer saved hours of time when she presented the provider with AppNeta data to prove that the ISP needed to make fixes on their end. In another case, Smith only needed five minutes in AppNeta to discover that an end-user experience issue was an ISP problem. He got the information to the third-party network provider for the fix. The end user experiencing problems—a radiologist–lost just one hour of productivity, compared to the many more hours it might have taken before. “MTTR is so much faster now,” says Smith, “and we can give a reason for what’s happening, especially with cloud services.”
  7. Setting just-right alerts. Stauffer uses alerting for the VoIP application over the WAN and internal networks, and set alerts up for ServiceNow and Workday, making sure she tweaked the configurations so she wouldn’t be bombarded with notices.

Since implementing AppNeta, the calls the network engineering team used to receive from users have almost disappeared, since application owners can now handle most problems without contacting IT.

If a problem needs escalating, Smith and Stauffer tackle the issue. That strategy has created a single point of contact for users and IT, which is a big improvement over the multiple calls from different users that the team used to receive.

With further growth expected, the network engineering team continues to streamline processes. The time saved with AppNeta made it easy to prove value to leadership, Smith said, especially compared to time spent before they had the solution. “It’s already paid off,” he said. They’re able to focus on big-picture performance success to plan for a modern, agile healthcare IT infrastructure.

Operationally, the time we’ve saved is days or even weeks of troubleshooting.

–Bryan Smith


Filed Under: Networking Technology, Performance Monitoring

Tags: case study , cloud applications , healthcare IT , SaaS