Software-Defined Network Technologies & Cloud Management Improve Care & Patient Outcomes

BrandPost By George Mulhern
Oct 26, 2017

Technology is transforming the healthcare industry, producing faster and improved methods to help patients.rn

Today, healthcare providers are using network connectivity and technology applications to improve care and patient outcomes. These medical applications require secure network reliability to ensure the best care possible. In the healthcare industry, speed and accuracy of care can mean life or death. As the digital transformation impacts healthcare organizations, forward-thinking CIOs must have a comprehensive network strategy to plan, implement, deploy, and manage their ever-moving Elastic EdgeSM.

For this strategy, deploying all-in-one wired and wireless routers, along with a single-pane-of-glass cloud management platform, can reduce the hardware stack and streamline IT management of the network.  Adding software-defined technologies to an IT strategy will also improve operations, create efficiencies, and enhance network performance and reliability — all while reducing complexity and management of the network.

In this blog, we will cover the technologies that should be considered in a distributed healthcare network, and review real-world customer success examples of executing these technologies to impact customer care and operations.

All-in-One Wired & Wireless Routing Platforms

All-in-one routing platforms combine enterprise routing, multi-WAN support — wired plus 4G wireless — SD-WAN capabilities, advanced security, private network support, and high-performance WiFi, which are ideal for future-proofing healthcare networks and ensuring that clinics and departments run smoothly. By adding the combination of routers plus cloud management and services, administrators can define, deploy, and manage dispersed healthcare networks on a highly capable platform that is customizable and lowers the total cost of ownership. 

Software-Defined WAN Improves Operations

Traditional WANs are complex and inflexible – indeed, they often prevent business agility. The Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) has emerged to address such limitations. SD-WAN and the use of multiple WAN links offer increased flexibility, availability, and simplified business and application policies to enterprises deploying more mobile workers, applications, and resources in the cloud, and pervasive connectivity needs. Dynamically steering traffic with SD-WAN ensures cost-effective uptime. Enterprises need to take advantage of path diversity but not at the expense of complicated network management.  SD-WAN simplifies this process and makes WANs flexible and agile for optimum performance and availability.

Software-Defined Perimeter for Added Security

With increasing numbers of mobile workers and an onslaught of IoT devices, healthcare organizations face numerous challenges making networks flexible, reliable, and secure. Traditional VPNs are often fragile and inflexible, requiring complex configuration and extended time to deploy – not ideal for expanding clinics or mobile hospice workers. Software-defined Perimeter (SD-P) is a new way to rapidly and securely connect people and things, regardless of location, to ensure access to applications and resources.

With Active Directory integration, you can extend your LAN to remote users without any changes. With SD-P, it supplies a private address space that is invisible to potential hackers. Micro-segment users, applications, and devices can be assigned in minutes ensuring only pre-authorized users are added to the network and have access to only the resources they need.  This adds an additional layer of security and removes a layer of complexity that traditional networks require. Look for a solution that has all transactions fully encrypted using the AES 256-bit standard encryption algorithm. 

Cloud Management for a Single-Pane-of-Glass View

Cloud management allows organizations to rapidly deploy and dynamically manage networks at geographically distributed locations. A solution should improve productivity, reduce costs, and enhance the intelligence of network and business operations. This platform should allow your organization to analyze past data to ensure network operations are streamlined and functioning at optimal rates.

Also, look for a solution that sends alerts and enables you to see usage by client or by WAN connection so you can plan for additional capacity as needed.

Real-World Success: Technology Leaders in Healthcare

  • Children’s Mercy Hospital: Reaching Patients at Any Geographical Location

Telemedicine is one example of how cutting-edge technology has advanced the healthcare system.  Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City is using this groundbreaking method to help patients who can’t be transported to a hospital because of their condition. Using telemedicine, Children’s Mercy can provide care from a distance to patients who may be bed-ridden, use a wheelchair, or rely on a home ventilator. Not only can physicians carry on a face-to-face video conversation in real time, they can use web-based telemedicine software that enables devices such as stethoscopes, otoscopes, and diagnostic examination cameras.

Furthermore, real-time audio-video and diagnostics allow medical personnel to provide specialized services such as pediatric neurology and rheumatology, which would otherwise be limited by geography. 

  • University of Virginia Health System: Improving Treatment with Rapid Evaluation of Acute Stroke

Telemedicine is also being used in vehicles to bring healthcare to the patient for critical emergency services. The University of Virginia Health System (UVA) has launched a program called iTREAT (Improving Treatment with Rapid Evaluation of Acute Stroke via Mobile Telemedicine) which brings telemedicine toolkits in ambulances to stroke victims. These telehealth capabilities bring the UVA emergency room to field emergency professionals while stroke victims are being transported via ambulance. Getting a neurological assessment started before arriving at the hospital can save lives and prevent paralysis, speech, vision problems, and permanent disability.

Web-based telemedicine software is only possible with constant network connectivity.  Software-defined WANs can help to provide always-on connectivity and management of a network system from one central location, pinpoint connection failures, and add security. 

  • St. David’s Dental Foundation: Bringing Mobile Dental Care to Underserved Children

St. David’s Dental Program uses mobile dental clinics to provide children from Title I elementary schools with free dental screenings as well as preventative and restorative dental care.  Each vehicle is staffed with full-time licensed dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and operations staff.  Managing its network connection via cloud management allows St. David’s IT team to maintain network connectivity, synchronize the central database with the mobile dental clinics, and manage data from one location, ultimately reducing its need for IT support. The IT Team also use the strong cellular connectivity to remotely monitor security cameras that are mounted on each clinic vehicle.

  • Creative Solutions in Healthcare: Keeping Long-Term Care Connected

Multiple WAN links are an invaluable resource for organizations that want to keep their wired line but also need to implement wireless as a failover solution, ensuring maximum uptime.  For the assisted living and nursing facilities of Creative Solutions in Healthcare (CSNH), which is spread over 45 locations in Texas and growing, maintaining a secure network is imperative to medical care operations. Network downtime is not an option when conducting healthcare services such as checking medicine dosing, rehabilitative progress, medical history, patient dietary information, and critical care situations.  CSNH utilizes multiple WAN links and is achieving 99.99% network uptime.  Additionally, as CSNH expands and new facilities go up, they can get up and running with Day-1 Internet with more operational efficiencies. 

Watch this short video of the CIO/CISO of CSNH talk about their IT success.

*Please note, Cradlepoint’s cloud management platform, Enterprise Cloud Manager, is now renamed NetCloud Manager.