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Healthcare Network Management with SD-WAN

BY futurefirewall

Ensuring a consistent patient experience is often the focus of healthcare network management.Healthcare network management is changing due to some distinct shifts that improve the patient experience and prioritize a consistent approach across hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices. Take a look at some of the main trends driving these changes.

Electronic Medical Records (EMR): These offer a wide range of benefits, from providers having easy access to medical records to coordinating treatment plans for a comprehensive patient solution.

Cloud-Based Solutions: Some EMR solutions are hosted in the cloud, so they are readily available to doctors across a healthcare organization, but they also require some distinct healthcare network management strategies.

Internet of Things (IoT): Further streamlining care is the widespread introduction of devices that aid in delivering superior care to patients. From heart monitors to the laptop a nurse practitioner uses to enter notes during a checkup, the fleet of devices involved introduces new efficiencies to healthcare ― and new cyber security risks and complexity to the network.

Inconsistency in the patient experience can often be tied directly to a wide area network (WAN) related inconsistency. The problem can be as simple as disparate locations that utilize different local WAN providers, so healthcare providers are forced to send some of their data transmissions over the public Internet. This is further complicated by the strict compliance requirements in the healthcare industry, making security a priority for sending data over broadband links. Also, most WANs are outmoded, and there may be significant challenges in connecting them to cloud solutions.

These are just some of the forces impacting the healthcare network. Many organizations are turning to software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) to address security concerns and application performance while also introducing improved visibility and centralized control. Take a look at some of the key benefits that SD-WAN offers:

Supporting Hybrid WAN: SD-WAN supports multiple links, allowing healthcare organizations freedom from any specific telecom or transport type. This flexibility allows for easy automatic failover and faster provisioning when compared to traditional WANs. It also helps reduce the reliance on multi-protocol label switching (MPLS), which is reliable but more pricey than other pathways for connectivity.

Improved Quality of Service (QoS): SD-WAN makes it easy to sustain high utilization of bandwidth for shared links. The performance penalties that would otherwise negatively impact application access and increase overhead at clinics or offices do affect last-mile links. This results in the easier sharing of data across an organization.

Accessing Cloud Solutions: SD-WAN is exceptionally agile and makes adding new applications simple and efficient. It makes handling large data transmissions more cost-effective since applications requiring real-time connectivity can be easily prioritized to MPLS, while low-priority online activity can be relegated to the public internet.

Security Infrastructure: The importance of security to protect patient data is supported with centralized management and site-to-site Internet Protocol security (IPsec) connectivity. It also offers path encryption and virtual security tools through cloud breakouts, all utilized to protect private health data.

Reduced Costs of Networking: SD-WAN provides a more cost-effective solution by allowing healthcare organizations to optimize bandwidth spending. By setting up automatic routing of network traffic based on how critical the transmissions are, MPLS pathways are reserved for the most important transmissions.

Delivering Consistent Experiences: Because of the multiple failover options, the patient should never experience a long wait or interruption in access to medical records. Healthcare providers are able to deliver a more streamlined care experience.

Cyber Security Protection: SD-WAN traffic is easily segmented, so if a tablet or other IoT device is lost or stolen, network administrators can easily identify and isolate the problem through its centralized management dashboard. While it’s being resolved, the rest of the users on the network can continue uninterrupted.

There are several items any healthcare network management team may want to consider before implementing an SD-WAN solution:

Geography: If your organization spans a wide area, you may want to choose a single managed provider for SD-WAN. This allows you centralized management across all locations.

Speed: The variability in access speeds can be a major challenge in implementing SD-WAN across a geographically dispersed organization. Connectivity is generally priced according to speed, not volume, and access speeds tend to vary by provider and location. Be prepared to manage and provision these disparate speeds.

Technology: Obviously, not all SD-WAN solutions are created equal. You will want to talk with potential providers about what specific optimization opportunities are available with their features. You have the potential to save up to 40% in WAN costs when you implement an SD-WAN solution, but there are some that make cost savings more easily attained than others.

Contact us at SimpleWAN to find out why you may want to prioritize replacing all MPLS through our SD-WAN 2.0 solution to offer consistent, cost-effective healthcare network management to your organization. We can help you evaluate whether SD-WAN makes sense for your network management needs and guide you through a successful implementation.