Rich Media-Centric Medical Centers and SD-WAN Platforms

 

In healthcare, making any big technological change – from streamlining electronic health record (EHR) processes to implementing cloud applications – can feel like trying to turn a supertanker around. The sheer size and regulatory complexity of the industry naturally complicate all decisions, and we shouldn’t expect much simplification in the near future.

If anything, the opposite is likely to materialize. The Health Financial Management Association estimated health spending rose from 12.5 percent to 18 percent of U.S. GDP between 1990 and 2017. From 2009 to 2015, the pace of consolidation among providers also doubled.

As a result, large medical centers are more prominent than ever and employ a growing share of rich-media centric applications. However, their wide area networks (WANs) are in many cases not suited for the full utilization of these apps, nor for the support of compliant EHR workflows and rising demand from distributed sites, many of which were only recently acquired.

Why Traditional WANs Often Fall Short for Modern Medical Centers

The scope of a modern medical center means its WAN might serve tens of thousands of employees across many dispersed locations. In doing so, it must route many different types of traffic (everything from embedded clinical equipment apps to online training videos) while ensuring overall security and flexibility.

Standard WANs usually can’t meet such requirements. We can break these WAN challenges down into three major categories:

Performance

High availability and reliability are must-haves in health networks. Unfortunately, traditional WANs struggle here due to their active/backup designs, which frequently fail to trigger until long after the degradation of application sessions begins. These delayed failovers can negatively impact treatment as well as patient health, not to mention drive down utilization and slow claims filing – a 15-minute codec-failure message adds zero value in a real-time care environment.

“Medical center WANs serve thousands of employees across dispersed locations.”

Security

Recent legislation such as the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) overhauled the quality incentive programs for Medicare Part B providers. Protection of EHR data exchange is a pillar of the new rules, in a similar vein to previous bills such as HIPAA. Any healthcare WAN must have the necessary security features and integrations for compliant processes capable of reducing the high breach incidence on today’s networks.

Scalability

Until recently, the largest nonprofit health plan in the U.S. relied on a legacy WAN consisting of dual MPLS connections. Many of its locations did not have direct internet connections despite as much as 60 percent of all the organization’s traffic being Internet-bound. Facing 40 percent annual growth in network traffic, it opted for a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) instead of continuing to backhaul everything over MPLS.

SD-WAN Is the Catalyst for Medical Center Modernization

In addition to lower bandwidth costs, a solution from an SD-WAN provider such as Talari Networks can offer path and session layer intelligence for adaptable performance. It can monitor, broker and reserve bandwidth, resulting in rapid network adjustments to avoid impacts on end users in healthcare environments.

Security integrations support a safe transition to cloud services – something many medical centers are starting to make – while flexible transport over commodity Internet, carrier Ethernet, satellite, etc. creates a viable alternative to an MPLS-only WAN. Explore options for your medical center today by requesting a demo from Talari.

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