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The Role of SDN in Health IT

BY futurefirewall

Healthcare organizations are implementing SDN in health IT to support digital advances and compliance requirements.In the age of mobile devices, cloud computing, and the Internet of Thing (IoT), networking is becoming more complex. Providing a real-time, secure connection with adequate bandwidth can be a challenge. This is particularly true in healthcare, where security, compliance, and patient care all increase the weightiness of the performance and security of data transmission. That’s why many healthcare organizations are exploring the options of software-defined networking (SDN) – along with network function virtualization (NFV) – in health IT.

Prioritizing Traffic: In a setting where a network’s performance can have a life-or-death impact on a person, it’s critical that healthcare organizations have access to a network infrastructure that prioritizes the right traffic. For instance, the network needs to be able to recognize the difference between a doctor accessing records for an annual physical and one that is accessing them for emergency surgery.

Using SDN in health IT helps ensure that low-priority traffic, such as back-office applications or an employee streaming YouTube in the hospital cafeteria, will never gain priority over the transmission of patient records for someone in an emergency department.

The network should also be smart enough to assess a situation and determine whether traffic should take priority. If an IoT device gathers information that indicates a critical situation, it should be able to take priority to deliver the reading on a heart monitor that’s detecting distress, for instance.

Supporting Telehealth: Telehealth programs require real-time connectivity, and any type of interruption due to congestion or other performance issues can significantly impact the experience for both the provider and the patient. Using SDN in health IT situations like a telehealth appointment ensures there’s a flexible network, delivering packets for a seamless session.

Data Transmissions: When a large file of patient records or a set of X-rays needs to be transmitted, routine workflows are never interrupted.

Supporting the Move to Cloud Solutions: In many situations, healthcare organizations are required to update their network infrastructures to support cloud migration. Utilizing SDN in health IT helps meet the requirements of specific cloud solutions while optimizing areas like security, higher bandwidth demands, and cost reduction.

Reducing the Instances of Errors: One of the key benefits of utilizing SDN is its automatic routing of traffic to particular pathways for optimizing network administration. In a more traditional network setting, the provisioning of the network is one of the more time-consuming areas of IT.

Network automation introduces better visibility and monitoring so that when a manual adjustment is required, changes can be deployed quickly and efficiently. Automation reduces the amount of time spent on daily network management tasks, giving teams the ability to better understand and optimize the network environment. Automation also reduces the number of errors, further saving time and effort spent on network management.

Automating Auditing and Compliance: Using SDN in health IT allows you to complete compliance auditing, remediation, and reporting without manual processes. Rules can be applied through an automated tool by subscription to a managed services provider, allowing the organization to ensure they’ve consistently applied compliance regulations across the network.

Track Configuration Changes: Whether a change was made automatically or through a network administrator, configuration changes are easily traceable through SDN. If troubleshooting is necessary in the case of an error, the efforts can be more focused because there’s a record of each change.

Automatic Failover: Because SDN in health IT utilizes different pathways, automatically switching traffic to the next best pathway if there’s congestion or an interruption in connectivity, there’s also automatic failover. The impact of downtime on a healthcare provider can be life-threatening, but SDN introduces the automatic transfer of the traffic to a different link, eliminating downtime.

Accommodating Mergers and Acquisitions: In the past, incorporating a new acquisition or merger into your existing network created many headaches. With SDN in health IT introducing zero-touch provisioning, bringing a new site into the network takes a matter of minutes.

Also, SDN makes it easier to include locations in remote areas in your network. Because a new site can access a variety of connectivity links, they can be brought online with a long-term evolution (LTE) line.

Visibility: The network is managed through a virtual overlay on the physical network, so any required troubleshooting or monitoring is easy for networking teams. They no longer need to travel to the site location to find out why there’s a problem with congestion or an interruption in service. From headquarters, they can monitor the network and identify the cause of any problems from the centralized dashboard.

Healthcare organizations are utilizing more data than ever to offer more personalized and consistent care to patients. Utilizing SDN in health IT offers network infrastructure support for high-quality care.

If you’d like more information about how SDN can positively impact your patient care, contact us at SimpleWAN. We can help you design a network that delivers improved security, performance, and, ultimately, the best patient care possible.