Just as it is across every industry, healthcare digital transformation keeps the end-user experience in mind when making changes, but the impact is felt across the organization. It improves productivity, increases agility and streamlines business processes. Across all of these changes, however, one of the most critical is the added complexity to the network infrastructure.
The wide area network (WAN) is becoming a bottleneck in the healthcare digital transformation, but with the right changes to infrastructure, it could become one of the major drivers for success. Instead, of simply routing traffic, the network can become a strategic way to optimize business practices. Here are a few concerns relating to the traditional WAN setup:
Cost: The additional data volume moving through the network can be attributed to a wide variety of factors, including cloud applications, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) communications systems, and the increased amount of information being gathered about patients. Much of these data transmissions are being run over multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) pathways, which are reliable and secure but can be costly as more and more bandwidth is required.
Bandwidth: The demand for bandwidth is tied closely to cost concerns surrounding the WAN, but the high levels of bandwidth needed to support mobile devices, cloud access and communications mean that healthcare organizations are evaluating options. The demand for bandwidth can quickly outpace its supply.
Performance: Piling more solutions onto the network can result in performance issues. Jitter, latency, and dropped packets negatively impact real-time connectivity when there’s congestion in the network.
Security: The security perimeter of the network has all but disappeared, with IoT devices and cloud solutions expanding the security plane and introducing new vulnerabilities.
In addition to these challenges confronting traditional WAN infrastructures, new trends in healthcare are also impacting how networks function. These healthcare digital transformation initiatives solve critical problems for patients and providers and will require a new approach to networking to ensure their success.
Telemedicine allows providers to assess and diagnose patients through a live video connection remotely. This option is critical for those patients who are immobilized or may be in a remote location. It offers a lower cost per visit, while helping treat patients in the comfort of their own homes.
Electronic Medical Records (EMR) give patients and providers access to medical records anytime and from anywhere, allowing providers to offer better-informed care to patients and giving patients a consistent experience.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is increasingly being used in hospitals and clinics, with data stored centrally and available to mobile devices as providers move between patients and travel to home visits.
These technologies are creating better outcomes for patients and increasing productivity and agility for providers, but they also spur some changes to the infrastructure that supports them.
The healthcare digital transformation is supported by the move to software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). SD-WAN adds a virtual overlay onto the physical infrastructure, adding a few key features that support digital transformation objectives.
Increased Bandwidth at a Lower Cost: SD-WAN allows a healthcare organization to supplement more-expensive MPLS with other pathways, including high-speed broadband and cellular long-term evolution (LTE). This gives the organization more flexibility, as well as the opportunity to optimize networking for both cost and performance by automatically routing certain types of traffic to their ideal pathways.
Zero-Touch Provisioning: When it’s time to connect a new clinic or other location, it is as simple as shipping the edge device to the location and then plugging it in. The device self-installs and is able to connect the site in minutes, without any travel required of the IT team.
Prioritizing Performance: Application performance is preserved regardless of the pathway because the network monitors for congestion that might result in packet loss or jitter. It automatically moves traffic to the next-best available connection to support performance.
Optimized for Cloud: SD-WAN allows cloud traffic to go directly to locations, so there is no need to backhaul traffic to a central data center. A cloud-based gateway introduces better performance, security, and reliability to support secure access to health information systems in the cloud.
Improved Security: SD-WAN isolates traffic that comes from remote locations all the way into the data center according to pre-set policies. It also offers next-generation firewalls and the availability of advanced threat detection.
Centralized Visibility and Control: With SD-WAN, the network is managed through a centralized dashboard, giving administrators enhanced visibility into any issues related to performance or security. In the event that a threat or other problem is detected, pathway segmentation means the rest of the network is protected.
Healthcare digital transformation presents new opportunities for improving patient care and gives providers more efficient tools for delivering that care. It is critical that the network infrastructure is designed to support these improvements.
To learn more about SD-WAN and how it can help you drive digital transformation objectives, contact us at SimpleWAN.