BY ALISON DIANA
Alison Diana is a freelance writer, specializing in technology and the channel.
Healthcare professionals – such as doctors, nurses, staff, researchers, and clinicians – are adding powerful new instruments to their “black bags” that leverage networking technologies to improve the overall quality of patient care and deliver limitless communications and collaboration across geographies, physical locations, and settings. Allied Telesis high-performance networking solutions empower today's leading-edge Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS), medical images and electronic medical records (EMR) sharing, and protect patient, personnel, and visitor security.
Hospitals and medical facilities around the world are using Allied Telesis networking solutions to improve patient care, enhance productivity, save costs, ensure data security, and improve in-building safety using advanced IP surveillance technologies. With its long history of partnering with government and healthcare organizations, Allied Telesis is adept at guiding medical providers through the often-complex world of grants and legislative mandates while simultaneously providing the network systems critical to the success of healthcare facilities' adoption or expansion of vital diagnostic and administrative solutions.
The United States government is encouraging healthcare providers to invest in enabling technologies that improve efficiency, streamline record-keeping, provide doctors with real-time access to medical images, and centrally store patient records. Through initiatives such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act), the government has set aside billions of dollars for healthcare providers to invest in implementing technology in their hospitals, clinics, and practices.
When it comes to viewing patients' records, doctors demand accuracy, speed, and clarity. Security also is vital to maintain patients' privacy. With Allied Telesis’ secure IP/Ethernet switching solutions and experience in deploying converged multi-play networks, hospitals around the world are implementing Allied Telesis healthcare solutions that affordably meet all these critical criteria.
For example, thanks to its steadily expanding patient base, HSC Medical Center in Malaysia needed to open a second hospital. The healthcare provider wanted a highly reliable, well-integrated and cost-effective network infrastructure, so doctors at both buildings could share and access patients' medical information, including large imaging files, as well as leverage its medical experts and resources across the two hospitals, said Dr. Soo Chee Siong, medical director at HSC Medical Center.
Speed was of the essence since the hospital's ability to quickly transfer high-quality images could accelerate the diagnostic process, resulting in earlier detection and treatment, thereby saving lives.
HSC Medical Center demanded a technology partner experienced in designing and delivering reliable telemedicine networking infrastructures, a partner with expertise in virtual private networks (VPNs) and high-speed switching products. With its legacy of supporting the Asia Pacific Advanced Network (APAN) Telemedicine initiative and its proven track-record of providing cost-effective, high-performing networking technologies, Allied Telesis met and exceeded HSC Medical Center's requirements.
The solution included Allied Telesis AR750S Series routers, which provide IPsec VPN connectivity between HSC Medical Center sites via Broadband xDSL services. HSC Medical Center also purchased Allied Telesis AT-9724TS and AT-9748TS Series Stackable Layer 3 Switches, which support SSH, thereby allowing secure, encrypted, remote management and configuration of the hardware. The medical facility's network supports multiple VLANs, and Layer 3 Routing allows the switches to facilitate connectivity between both VLANs. The Allied Telesis AT-9724TS provides LAN connectivity 10/100/1000Mbps to all the hospital's workstations and servers.
“Allied Telesis offers the experience, knowledge, and technology we were looking for,” said Dr. Soo. “Its solutions are able to seamlessly integrate our new and existing network. This resulted in giving HSC the best total cost of ownership. I’m happy Allied Telesis meets all the stringent requirements within the hospital's budget."
In Kitami, Japan, the Japanese Red Cross Kitami Hospital oversees and manages a comprehensive “Medical Information Cooperation System," which lets registered hospitals access and view information, such as the referred patient’s radiological images or examination results, from their own hospitals via the Internet. The primary-care hospital, which has 16 departments, selected an SSL-VPN and high-speed broadband network, using the Allied Telesis SwitchBlade 5400S Series with redundant configuration and Gigabit Ethernet switches, to support its internal users and external partners.
“Registered hospital doctors can view patients’ information, including examination results, and provide medical care to patients more quickly and carefully without coming to our hospital,” said Tatsuyoshi Ozawa, director of Japanese Red Cross Kitami Hospital. “There are also benefits for the patients, such as avoiding having to repeat multiple tests at different institutions. Additionally, it ensures personal information is managed securely.”
“Like U.S. hospitals, many of which recently have moved or plan to move to electronic medical records (EMRs) as a result of the HITECH Act, the Japanese Red Cross saw a huge spike in network traffic after doctors began using electronic health records,” said Juichi Makabe, Red Cross Kitami Hospital planning section manager. “A high-speed, reliable network was essential to the success of the hospital partnership's EMR,” he noted.
"By effectively and efficiently accessing and using medical information, doctors, nurses, and other medical staff enjoy tremendous benefits both for patients and for hospital management,” added Masashi Goto, administration department manager. “In this way, the role of IT, including the management of electronic records, is expected to become even more critical."
The Turkish Armed Forces also chose Allied Telesis as the network solutions provider for improvements to 34 military medical facilities as part of an ongoing technology modernization effort driven by the Turkish Ministry of Defense. The project includes Allied Telesis AT-x908 advanced layer-3 switches; AT-8624 layer-3 and AT-8516F layer-2 Fast Ethernet switches; AT-AR750S firewall and wide area network (WAN) router; AT-2701FX fiber Network Interface Card (NIC), and AT-AR440S asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) router. The Allied Telesis multilayer core switching solution is highly flexible, incorporating specialized security protocols for enhanced protection of sensitive personnel and patient information. The AT-AR440S and AT-8516F enable fiber-to-the-desk (FTTD) and 802.1x MAC (media access control)-based VLAN assignments to ensure workstation security, and the AT-2701FX fiber NICs connect the workstations to the data center.
"The Turkish Armed Forces were looking to deploy a technology solution offering speed, security, and scalability—due to the highly sensitive and confidential data being transferred—and with our breadth of experience with military and defense networks, we were uniquely positioned to assist them in their deployment of a complex medical network within a large military system," said Eu-Jin Lim, Allied Telesis president.
Beyond the requirements associated with EHR, the Allied Telesis networking technologies meet the bandwidth-hungry needs of video, a tool increasingly in use at today's hospitals.
The National University of Fukui Hospital in Fukui, Japan, selected Allied Telesis to power its new multicast network, designed to support procedures such as fluoroscopy imaging, angiography, and nuclear medicine, as well as 3D CT and MRI scans. In addition, the hospital wanted to monitor surgeries, anesthesia, and recovery rooms and waiting areas, as well as provide more physical security via IP surveillance solutions to patients, staff, and visitors.
As the National University did not want to have a separate network dedicated solely to video, they turned to networking partner Allied Telesis to employ a converged network solution based on the x908 and x900 switching platforms and utilizing the Link Aggregation (LAG) feature for resiliency and the Virtual Chassis Stacking (VCStack) feature for scalability.
By implementing the converged Allied Telesis solution, patient care emphasized preventive medicine, as compared with dealing only with illness. Additionally, the solution proved to be both cost-effective to implement and enabled the hospital to more efficiently use its resources and improve workflow when managing patient records, ordering and billing, and the PACS.
Of the billions of dollars the government is allocating to healthcare spending, at least $12 billion has been earmarked for broadband access, facility construction, and telemedicine initiatives, research firm Gartner says. These funds will help medical providers connect patients with out-of-area specialists, removing bottlenecks from under-staffed regions and giving people greater access to patient care, resulting in savings and quality of life improvements.
Medical tests help save lives, but for thousands of patients, gaining access to CAT scans, MRIs, and X-rays and the sometimes far-away medical professionals who can best read and diagnose the results may be a painful, time-consuming ordeal. Thanks to Allied Telesis networking technologies, however, a growing number of patients now have access to telemedicine delivering world-class healthcare from the comfort of their local medical-provider's office.
After all, about one-fifth of North Americans live in rural communities. Countless others may be unable to travel any distance to visit specialists. And as the population of the United States and Canada continues to age while the doctor-to-patient ratio continues to decline, medical professionals face ongoing challenges in how to best care for the growing ranks of their patients.
Simultaneously, the number of doctors is expected to decrease. Indeed, based on current graduation and training rates, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts the United States could face a shortfall of up to 150,000 physicians in the next 15 years.
With Allied Telesis-powered telemedicine solutions, doctors can expand their practices and hospitals may tap specialists in other geographies, without the time-loss or expense associated with couriers, overnight shipping or slow, potentially insecure, Internet connections. Patients are more likely to seek early care, improving their recovery rates and saving on the cost of treatment.
In fact, telemedicine is expected to reshape healthcare: 89 percent of medical decision-makers predict telehealth will transform healthcare in the next decade, according to a study by Penn Schoen Berland. By 2012, the telehealth and home-health monitoring market is slated to reach $7.7 billion, versus $3 billion in 2009, research firm Data Monitor estimates. Both research point to delivering better patient experiences through the deployment of sophisticated, new technologies that champion patient care through more proactive approaches.
A global leader in healthcare networking, Allied Telesis is strongly positioned to improve the future of healthcare by providing highly secure network solutions for the exchange of patient information and EMR, offer new ways for healthcare professionals to collaborate across borders and enable enhanced healthcare delivery services, as well as secure the physical facility or clinic – further transforming the way key stakeholders, from patients and clinicians to hospitals, research staff, and payers connect, communicate, access information, and collaborate.
With extensive experience in successfully partnering with agencies at federal, state and local levels, Allied Telesis is well-equipped to help organizations navigate the administrative challenges and opportunities inherent in today's healthcare market. Since at least part of $12 billion is available for telemedicine initiatives, the stakes are high for healthcare facilities hoping to lead the way into improved patient care and the next wave of medical care. And the timing has never been better.
"Allied Telesis has a history of doing business with the government. We also have an extensive history of successfully working with the private sector, so we can unite both worlds," says Eric Floyd, senior vice president of vertical marketing at Allied Telesis. "Allied Telesis has many flourishing telemedicine implementations at hospitals around the world and a proven ability to work in the demanding healthcare environment. In the same way, our products are fully interoperable with other hardware and software technologies to become a core component of a telemedicine solution benefiting both patient and healthcare provider."
Allied Telesis provides a combination of technology expertise, a history of successful public and private-sector partnerships, and proven technologies delivering value at an affordable price.
Under its Allied Telesis Star Partner Program, for example, Allied Telesis supports integrated partner activities to provide best-in-class solutions across key business markets including healthcare, education, utilities, and the public sector in Europe and North America.
At perhaps no other time have medical professionals faced such challenges – nor such opportunities. While there are hurdles, including federal mandates and confusion over some of the requirements and criteria surrounding federal grants, there also is the chance for healthcare organizations—large and small—to take advantage of government funding and the Allied Telesis expertise to design and implement solutions that leverage their abilities to provide leading-edge healthcare services.
Just as selecting the optimal treatment is critical in a patient's battle against sickness, choosing the optimal networking partner is vital to a medical organization's successful implementation of PACS, telemedicine, EMRs, and other computer-related tools of today's healthcare providers. These powerful applications demand a secure and scalable network, and a reliable and resilient backbone that ensures doctors can always access medical images, that nurses may always view and amend patients' charts, and that security personnel can consistently monitor the facility's safety.
With its proven expertise in healthcare, Allied Telesis is the cure for medical facilities' networking needs.