Healthcare IT is continuously in a state of flux, as new systems and technologies emerge to improve patient care and streamline processes. In recent years, this rate of change has increased, with cloud solutions leading to sweeping organizational changes and Internet of Things (IoT) technology introducing fleets of new endpoints that must be secured and managed. Many healthcare organizations are utilizing software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) to address the increasing infrastructure complexity due to these changes.
What Is SD-WAN? SD-WAN virtualizes network management by separating the control plane from the physical network. Network engineers view and manage connectivity and performance from a centralized dashboard, making adjustments based on granular reporting and metrics about load balancing, security, and application performance. SD-WAN also opens up alternative links, giving healthcare IT the ability to expand the bandwidth available through public Internet pathways and other options for connectivity.
SD-WAN makes it easier to secure endpoints with end-to-end encryption and the ability to segment network traffic. If a laptop or other endpoint is left unattended or stolen, the potential threat can be mitigated and isolated from the rest of the network.
The Benefits of SD-WAN: Healthcare IT gains a variety of advantages through SD-WAN, including the ability to provision resources for a new location without having a technician travel to the site. Any troubleshooting or network management can be conducted from the main office.
SD-WAN also gives network teams the ability to prioritize and segment traffic based on business policy. This means that a video conferencing session can be automatically routed to a highly-reliable, secure multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) pathway that has little risk of jitter or dropped packets. Meanwhile, applications such as email that do not have real-time connectivity requirements can be designated to a public Internet link.
These are just some of the broad benefits of SD-WAN for healthcare IT. Some of its most notable advantages present themselves in the event of a merger, acquisition, or partnership.
Managing Mergers, Acquisitions, and Partnerships with SD-WAN
While healthcare IT is in a constant state of change, the same can be said for the healthcare industry itself. Mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships (MAPs) are common events, and the success of these changes often depends heavily on the ability of the IT teams to integrate systems, data, and network infrastructure.
The rate of MAPs isn’t slowing down. In 2017, there were 115 MAP transactions, which represented a 113% increase over the previous year, according to research by KaufmanHall. Some of these transactions involve large organizations with over $1 billion in annual revenue.
When two organizations merge, the process can be complicated, particularly when it’s two larger entities. Complexity enters the picture for healthcare IT in the protection of patient data and systems, in terms of both accuracy and security, as a solution is sought to give both organizations adequate access. Adding to the pressure, much of the value in a MAP transaction is found in the successful transition of healthcare IT. Teams must plan to merge data and systems within six months of the transaction.
The Role of SD-WAN: Some of the complexity challenging healthcare IT is the presence of the acquired organization’s existing network. In a typical MAP situation, the infrastructure, including cables and circuits, would have to be ripped out and replaced with new physical components that connect to the new network. Integration with the parent company can take anywhere from six months up to a year or two.
With SD-WAN, these steps are unnecessary. Bringing a new location online is as easy as deploying an edge device, and then adding the location into the management and orchestration portal through zero-touch provisioning. Through this orchestrator, the IT team is equipped to monitor and manage the network across the existing infrastructure and the new endpoints added to new locations.
Installing SD-WAN into a new location doesn’t require sending a technician out to install new equipment, or to manually configure and test a router. With SD-WAN, it can be as simple as plugging in a couple of cords to bring the location into the network.
This easy scalability is one of the key benefits of SD-WAN. It also makes the merger or acquisition more cost-effective, because there’s no need to budget for extensive infrastructure changes to the new locations. Very little must be purchased in terms of hardware, and network teams won’t require additional employees to support the network management of new sites.
SD-WAN also supports the level of security healthcare IT requires for compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act. As patient data and other details begin to be accessed across the merged organization, end-to-end encryption, next-generation firewalls, and virtual private networks (VPNs) all work to protect records.
If a merger, acquisition or partnership is on your healthcare organization’s horizon, contact us at SimpleWAN. We can help you ease the transition with a solution that eliminates much of the headache of bringing a new organization into your network.