Imagine you’re caring for an elderly parent who struggles with mobility and requires at least an hour of preparation just to get out the door, only to dedicate another full hour to reach the doctor’s office from their rural home. Now imagine if you could eliminate all of that struggle and consult with your parent’s doctor from the comfort of their home. With new and advanced healthcare IT options, such a scenario is now possible. It’s one example of how software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) benefits impact healthcare IT, and make a significant difference to the patient experience.
One of the key SD-WAN benefits helping shape the future of healthcare is the support of telemedicine. From reducing travel costs to convenience for both patients and doctors, telemedicine offers many advantages. It is a useful tool for a quick post-procedure check-up or to assist providers in monitoring treatment results for patients diagnosed with chronic conditions.
The need for telemedicine is clear, but healthcare IT requires the network infrastructure to support it. Any threat of jitter or dropped packets during a telemedicine consultation can create problems, and the network must also have certain security features for Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA) compliance.
First, what is SD-WAN? This technology addresses the complexity of modern network needs with a virtualized control plane that resides over the physical network. SD-WAN allows a healthcare enterprise to choose a variety of pathways for connectivity and prioritize traffic based on need.
Take a look at some of the SD-WAN benefits that support healthcare IT and specifically telemedicine:
Improved Application Performance: In telemedicine, a reliable connection is critically important, and SD-WAN allows network engineers to designate video conferencing traffic as a priority. This means the network will route telemedicine application traffic over preferred pathways, such as multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) links, rather than a public Internet link. The network detects the possibility of any jitter or packet loss so that if there’s any threat of an interruption, the transmission is redirected to the next best link.
Security: The traffic segmentation feature of SD-WAN makes it easier for healthcare IT to separate sensitive patient data and protect telemedicine sessions from security threats. The best SD-WAN solutions include security features like next-generation firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs) and end-to-end encryption to protect data in transit.
Cost Savings: It’s difficult to quantify the cost savings that SD-WAN introduces for health IT, because part of its attraction is the ability to mitigate the increasing bandwidth demands that will continue to rise amid cloud transitions. If healthcare organizations continue to rely on MPLS links, which are reliable and secure but costly, costs related to the WAN will only continue to multiply.
SD-WAN gives the organization the ability to tap into other options for connectivity, enabling access to far greater bandwidth at a reduced cost. There’s also little investment in the way of hardware or installation, and a subscription-based model results in consistent monthly invoices. In addition, increased visibility and control, as well as zero-touch provisioning, mean network teams are able to streamline their interactions with the network and focus on other business deliverables.
Supporting Devices: Telemedicine and telehealth are powered by a fleet of devices that range from heart monitors to tablets and step counters. SD-WAN benefits include the support of a wide variety of endpoints, with the ability to segment traffic based on the type of device. This means that if a tablet is lost or stolen, network teams can isolate the potential threat from the rest of the network.
Assisting Patients: Some of the key SD-WAN benefits go directly to the patient. For instance, SD-WAN supports cloud applications that help screen patients. This means that patients are more accurately and efficiently directed to either a telemedicine solution, an emergency department or scheduled for an office visit, based on the severity of their symptoms and their medical history. For instance, a patient calling a hospital for a prescription refill because they had surgery the previous week will be directed to the appropriate department.
Automatic Failover: A network outage is a problem for any enterprise, but when it comes to healthcare IT, network downtime can have serious consequences. SD-WAN addresses this concern with automatic failover. If the Internet service provider (ISP) is having problems, the network automatically routes the transmission to the next pathway. The user never knows there was a problem, and network teams will detect the issue either on the dashboard or through reporting, but there won’t be a rush to put out a fire. The problem can be dealt with later.
To learn more about SD-WAN benefits for healthcare IT and specifically telemedicine, contact us at SimpleWAN. We can help you ensure the technology you plan to implement to serve your patients will be supported by reliable network infrastructure.