How SDN can benefit healthcare

July 31, 2017

 SDN 

Software-defined networking (SDN) holds great promise for the healthcare industry. Healthcare IT professionals are coaxed into updating hospital networks and data centers to protect patient data and support innovative medical applications. SDN can address these challenges. Here’s a rundown of some of the different ways SDN can benefit the healthcare industry.

SDN is a developing architecture that enables applications and the network to communicate to each other using application program interfaces (APIs). The network can inquire what the application wants and informs the application server when an endpoint, like a desktop computer, laptop, or smartphone connects to the network. By the same token, the application can inform the network which kinds of services it wants and which kinds of packets to permit.

The architecture of SDN involves a bottom, middle, and top layer. The bottom layer is the infrastructure layer, which stores network forwarding equipment; the middle layer is the control layer, which configures the infrastructure layer; and the top layer is the application layer, which sends application requests for the network onto the control layer.

According to a study, approximately 30% to 40% of all current networking funds will be spent on SDN by 2018, making it a potential $35 billion market in less than two years. There is a wealth of reasons why SDN is expected to perform well in the IT healthcare market, especially in regards to patient monitoring, data security, and unified communication.

Patient monitoring systems, or bedside monitors, require flexibility, reliability, and security. Patient data needs to be provided to the monitoring control system wherever a convalescent resides in a hospital. Patient monitors can roll alongside patients as they moved from one room to the next. Moreover, a cable can be plugged into an available port to create a network loop.

Contemporary patient monitoring endpoints support both wired and wireless connectivity and secure the connectivity of the monitoring system controller whenever it switches between wired and wireless connections. An SDN controller recognizes whenever a patient monitoring endpoint joins the network.

In particular, data is processed and forwarded by the network switches, allowing the endpoint to connect specifically to the patient monitoring controller. The monitoring network can connect any place in the SDN switch network. The SDN controller pinpoints the endpoint and joins the ingress interface to the virtual network.

Prior to the digital era, patients would have to pen their medical history by hand. With the advent of digital medical records; however, doctors can directly access a patient’s medical history to prescribe medication and review lab results.

Although digital records provide several benefits for both doctors and patients, security issues have been raised. Patient data must be kept private, especially with the rise of cyber attacks. SDN can provide the security and flexibility needed to transfer patient data from one endpoint to the next.

Moreover, SDN controller software is able to create virtual networks for internet of health things (IoHT) technologies and add firewalls tailored for each device. A Kanazawa Hospital, for example, was able to use SDN to deploy four separate virtual networks on an individual physical network. The hospital intends to keep tabs on discharged patients by expanding its network with 3G and Long Term Evolution mobile networks.

Voice and video communication play a pivotal role in healthcare. They enable physicians to hold video conferences in patient homes, eliminating time wasted in waiting rooms.

To provide these services, healthcare providers require constant and dependable connectivity and proper Quality of Service (QoS). Static configurations of voice calls may work well for wired and wireless phones, but not as well for softphones running on computers and mobile tools. SDN enables the UC controller to inform the network of the voice or video call, which configures itself for the call.

Healthcare organizations are under pressure to upgrade their network infrastructure to improve patient care and medical technologies. In addressing these needs, upgraded networks can take advantage of SDN’s speed, flexibility, and agility.

Source: RCRWireless News

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