SD-WAN: Healing overloaded healthcare WANs

Healthcare has always posed a complicated relationship with technology. Relatively recent innovations – like guest Wi-Fi for patients' families, video conferencing for telemedicine and advanced practice management (PM) software for easy self-service scheduling – all sit alongside legacy technology including the fax machine, not to mention patchwork electronic health records (EHR) systems.

As a result, today's healthcare WANs transport complex, heterogeneous mixes of traffic. Different users and needs, namely medical staff and patients, end up competing for limited bandwidth.  With literal life and death decisions based on reliable network communications, every second counts in delivering life-saving care.

The ideal healthcare WAN achieves:

  • Acceptable uptime and predictable performance of critical applications.
  • Prioritization and logical segmentation of traffic, using software-defined policies.
  • Scalable bandwidth and high availability using multiple transport options.

Let's go through these 3 parameters individually and examine how a failsafe software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) keeps all users, applications and services in the best of health.

Performance

Both TCP and real-time applications play important parts in healthcare delivery. For example, every modern orthopedic practice relies on an EHR solution, PM software and a picture archiving and communications system (PACs) to collectively manage multiple aspects of patient care. At the same time, telemedicine follow-up – via video chat – is an increasingly important part of specialties like orthopedics, since it allows physicians to monitor progress and provide instructions about brace adjustments.

An SD-WAN ensures health care professionals and patients alike get consistent performance for all of these applications. This applies to organizations with many branch sites, or with distributed large medical centers.

Prioritization and segmentation

As we noted earlier, healthcare WANs are highly active, with medical personnel and patients using them concurrently for different purposes. A physician might use the network to retrieve MRIs and X-rays via the PACS, while a visitor might log on to the guest Wi-Fi network to send messages or watch videos, especially with poor cellular coverage inside of medical facilities.

SD-WAN solutions are the best way to make sure apps in the latter mold don't squeeze out more important ones, while still providing bandwidth and access for all needs, thanks to policy-driven prioritization and segmentation of traffic. Centralized management also makes it straightforward to update configurations across the entire WAN in minutes.

Bandwidth

Healthcare WANs often fall ill due to reliance on expensive and thin MPLS links. Inadequate bandwidth will compromise the performance of mission-critical apps and also make it more difficult to support next-generation applications like video-aided training sessions.

Fortunately, failsafe SD-WANs dynamically aggregate bandwidth from multiple connections, whether all MPLS or a combination of MPLS with alternatives like broadband, cellular and satellite connectivity. This approach is far more scalable and cost-effective than a simple MPLS WAN, even one using Internet backup.

To learn more about how a failsafe SD-WAN from Talari Networks benefits your healthcare organization, take a look at the eBook below or setup a demo today.

Categories: Application Performance/Application Quality

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