Healthcare IT teams are well-aware of the importance of adhering to the Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA), weighing the priorities of securing patient data secure while also making it accessible with the right solutions. Each infrastructure decision must be made to remain HIPAA compliant while also working within limited budgetary resources.
In addition to remaining HIPAA compliant, IT teams must support infrastructure decisions that protect patients in terms of Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards.
Previously, healthcare IT has relied heavily on multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) pathways to offer reliable, secure connectivity to support the transmission of patient data while adhering to HIPAA and PCI requirements. While MPLS has traditionally been a good choice for healthcare, its costs can be prohibitive for organizations as bandwidth demands increase.
The introduction of cloud-based systems for healthcare and increased use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices to streamline productivity have multiplied the complexity of network infrastructure while also expanding bandwidth demand. Network teams are challenged to balance the protection of these requirements while managing the high cost of supplying bandwidth.
The traditional wide area network (WAN) is not capable of handling the increased load necessary to support the volume of data transmissions to and from cloud solutions. What’s more, the hub-and-spoke infrastructure backhauls all traffic to the central network before transmitting it out to the Internet, creating congestion at the hub.
To meet the requirements for patient protection and medical record accessibility while equipping the organization with a cost-effective networking solution, many healthcare IT teams are implementing software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN).
Cost Reduction Through SD-WAN: One of the ways that SD-WAN helps healthcare IT remain HIPAA compliant is through the cost-reducing properties that the networking approach introduces. It allows the organization to continue dedicating MPLS lines to transmitting patient data and other sensitive information while accessing different pathways for less-critical traffic, such as email or casual web browsing.
SD-WAN also saves costs when a new location is added to the healthcare organization. The zero-touch provisioning available with a virtualized network means IT can all but eliminate its travel costs. Connecting a new site is as simple as plugging two or three cords into an endpoint device.
Improved Security: SD-WAN offers a variety of security features that ensure a healthcare organization is HIPAA compliant. End-to-end encryption protects data during transmission, and next-generation firewalls and virtual private networks (VPNs) can be used to protect branch locations.
There are additional reasons why SD-WAN is inherently more secure. Traffic segmentation means any data subject to HIPAA regulations can be separated from the rest of the network, prioritized over more secure pathways, and easily isolated in case of a potential threat.
SD-WAN also makes it possible to extend the network and its protection to mobile employees and small clinics. For instance, a healthcare organization may have a mobile blood bank that operates in a different location each day. Determining how this blood bank will connect to the network, how they will securely transmit data to the data center and whether any personal information will be stored on an unsecured laptop or other device are all challenges SD-WAN solves.
With SD-WAN the patient being treated in their home or a mobile clinic is also able to make a payment that’s secured throughout the process, without granting outside access to medical or financial information in a transaction that’s both PCI and HIPAA compliant.
Support for Small Locations: Meeting HIPAA requirements can be challenging for a big healthcare center, but sometimes compliance is even more daunting for a small clinic or physician’s office. SD-WAN includes the location in the network, and a VPN can be installed for secure data transmissions and access to system resources. This allows the physician or clinic to securely share files with others involved in patient care, such as psychologists or emergency responders.
Secure Scalability: As healthcare organizations grow through mergers or by adding branch locations, they require a way to include new sites in the network. With SD-WAN, new locations can quickly be connected and still HIPAA compliant. Within minutes, zero-touch provisioning and the plugging in of a couple of cords allow the site to be added to the network.
Healthcare organizations often have a wide footprint, which creates a challenge in designating a network perimeter. SD-WAN addresses this by pulling all locations into the network and applying its security features across them, allowing the organization to remain fully HIPAA compliant.
SD-WAN’s virtualized networking approach allows healthcare IT to have granular visibility into performance, security, and load balancing aspects of network management. From a centralized dashboard, network engineers gain insight into any metrics that might influence HIPAA compliance and can make adjustments from there.
To learn more about supporting HIPAA compliance with SD-WAN, contact us at SimpleWAN. We leverage the best solutions and features to support your infrastructure needs while meeting compliance requirements within your budget.