A diagnosis of a serious illness is always frightening, even more so if the patient doesn’t have easy access to the most up-to-date diagnostics and treatment options. With super high-speed gigabit service, today’s specialty telehealth centers and telemedicine consultations are revolutionizing healthcare and giving patients treatment options that previously may have been difficult, even impossible, to obtain. When it comes to telemedicine and other state-of-the-art health technologies, gigabit connectivity is the choice that more and more healthcare organizations are making.
Ultra-fast Internet services once were available primarily to research institutions, but technology advances, customization, and attractive pricing have enabled gigabit-speed fiber networks to be increasingly deployed throughout the medical community. Let’s look at a few scenarios where healthcare organizations benefit from deploying fiber-based Ethernet and Internet from 1 Gbps and beyond, and some of the factors to consider.
Digital radiography is gaining popularity and sharing digital medical images over Gigabit Ethernet is a huge advantage for healthcare companies, including dental offices. Many dental practitioners are converting from film-based images to digital sensor technology that makes check-ups more pleasant for patients, as well as providing dentists with high-quality digital X-ray images with superior clarity.
To better support its clients as they transition to digital sensor technology, XDR Radiology, a Los Angeles-based company that designs advanced digital radiography software and hardware for dental practitioners, upgraded to a customized, all-optical 1 Gbps Internet solution, delivered over dedicated fiber.
“We take a broad view of the word ‘support,’ and the Internet is the most important thing to our business,” says Ben Hackney, Technical Support Manager, XDR Radiology. “We rely on VoIP and IP trunking for our technical support contact center for our customers throughout North America, as well as internationally.”
Over the phone and via remote control of customers’ computers, XDR offers dental practices unlimited software upgrades, training, troubleshooting, and re-installation, as well as radiographic consultation.
“Many times we have to transfer large libraries of images, often downloading 1 gigabyte files, but now our bandwidth no longer is a limiting factor,” states Hackney. A file that previously required five hours to download using an IP over copper solution that could only deliver 10 Mbps now takes only 20 minutes over 1 Gbps.
Many of the remarkable tools of telehealth are empowered by ultra-fast broadband speeds from 1 Gbps and more. While telehealth can be as straightforward as an e-consultation between a specialist and a primary care provider, healthcare organizations are increasingly implementing bandwidth-intensive applications, like video and Web conferencing, into their UC architectures. Consider that through video conferencing, a remote evaluation with a respected multidisciplinary team of surgeons, oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, immunologists, and cancer researchers may now be an option for a patient where previously distance and access were barriers to top-notch care.
However, the effectiveness of videoconferencing relies on the strength and reliability of any organization’s network infrastructure. This makes the appropriate high-speed Internet solution essential for realizing benefits from these bandwidth-intensive applications. For example, a critical videoconferencing session with a specialized medical team reviewing treatment options cannot afford to be downgraded to voice because the bandwidth level resulted in jitter, delay, or interrupted service. The desired outcome simply cannot be achieved without the appropriate bandwidth.
Today’s healthcare organizations amass large volumes of complex big data. The extensive and disparate sources of modern patient data – medical records and physician’s and nursing notes, medication records, laboratory results, imaging, even data collected from monitoring devices and wearables – are better accessed, managed, analyzed, and shared with ultra-fast broadband.
Is infrastructure healthcare-ready?
Once reserved for research universities, fiber optic gigabit connectivity is now available to homes and businesses. To determine if a healthcare organization has the necessary infrastructure, network engineers should assess how much bandwidth is needed. In addition to taking into account the number of users and where users are located, HIT professionals should evaluate other factors that healthcare organizations face.
The benefits of electronic health records have been well documented. As healthcare organizations migrate from paper to EHRs, not only will the need for information storage and data backup increase exponentially, but the rapid retrieval and transfer of patient records and digital imaging data will require significant bandwidth. It is critical that your organization can leverage a secure Web portal to have reliable and real-time access to your EHR system from all locations, at any time.
With security breaches a constant threat, all enterprises, including healthcare, are rethinking their approach to network operations and security precautions. Some organizations turn a local-area network into a wide-area network by implementing a virtual private line services (VPLS) solution, which integrates multiple locations into one data-sharing system, securing data by bypassing the public Internet. At the end of the day, the power of that VPLS solution is dependent on the abilities and expertise of the vendor that implements and manages it.
A fundamentally different (and more effective) approach to network security is to seek an ISP that offers an ultra high-speed Internet solution that goes beyond the basics. For instance, for a VPLS to connect multiple disparate healthcare locations without experiencing data loss, a provider should enable network traffic to be prioritized and controlled.
The future of healthcare
Ultra-fast high speed gigabit connections are especially critical for healthcare enterprises that look to improve the overall quality and efficiency of their health delivery system. While ROI and price is always a prime consideration when evaluating network infrastructure, a one-size-fits-all solution is not always the most cost effective when it comes to providing gigabit connectivity.
One approach for HIT professionals to consider is customization. Conduct one-on-one meetings and extensive research to determine the unique requirements of a healthcare organization and look for a custom-designed and custom-provisioned network solution.
After all, downloading the “Star Wars” digital movie collection in HD within 3 1/2 minutes with a 1 gigabit Internet connection is awesome. The ability to download test results within seconds and give them to an anxiously waiting patient is extraordinary.