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facilities being added as part of health information exchanges or through mergers and acquisitions, the burden on a network is growing infi nitely. Infrastructure management costs are rapidly increasing, forcing CIOs to look at the risk vs. reward aspects of the cloud, while simultaneously ensuring 24/7 net- work availability and meeting strict compliance mandates. To help address and overcome these challenges, many facilities are increasingly looking to IT and network solutions vendors.

Updating legacy networks to a powerful converged optical-Ethernet infrastructure Real-time imaging, EHRs and a host of other telehealth applications empower healthcare providers to deliver the best outcomes for patients. One of the key challenges presented by these emerging applications is that most require tremen- dous amounts of bandwidth if they are to be shared across a healthcare network. Leased lines, ATM and frame relay just don’t have the capacity and fl exibility to handle high-bandwidth medical and storage applications that are becoming main- stream.

Constant application uptime is a key require- ment. It’s not uncom- mon for hospitals to have multiple networks, built for specific traf- fi c delivery in order to carry data, voice, SAN and video traffi c. But, in most cases, these dispa- rate, low-speed networks can’t support the increas- ing bandwidth needs of today’s healthcare information storage and disaster recovery requirements. In addition to bandwidth, multiple, disparate networks are costly to manage and main- tain, often with separate management contracts in place for each of the networks, which puts a big strain on IT budgets. To keep costs under control, support exploding bandwidth needs, meet strict data backup and retention mandates, and have the in-place capacity to support next-generation applica- tions and services, healthcare providers are turning to powerful, converged optical infrastructures to achieve the objectives.

Building the backbone for telehealth

Establishing these telehealth systems is not as simple as connecting computers to telephone lines. In order to deliver on the promise of high-capacity broadband service and all it off ers, upgrades are required to the network backbone and

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feeders. To ensure the eff ective implementation of telehealth, here are three items that must be scoped: • Fiber optic backbones may need upgrade or installation to meet high-capacity requirements;

• Wireless equipment needs to be installed in other areas where existing cellular service may be lacking; and

• Information switching and transport systems need to be modernized to carry multiple types of service. All of the previously mentioned requirements are quite

achievable and fi scally responsible. State-of-the-art optical transmission systems operate at rates up to 100 Gb/s with the ability to scale simply to multiple Tb/s. Ethernet switching provides a means to aggregate, steer and manage traffi c gener- ated by any application, including telehealth elements such as EHRs, PACS imaging, high-defi nition video and voice. Modern switches use enhancements to provide carrier-grade Ethernet connections that have the security and robustness

needed for current and future applications. Together these technologies – optical transmission and carrier Ethernet switching – provide the foundation for a powerful, nationwide telehealth network. Healthcare providers have no choice but to adopt new life-saving applications, such as telehealth and other advanced medical services, if they are to remain competitive and rel- evant. T is means that they must plan now to provision for their increasing use – and the use of even more bandwidth- intensive applications and increasing storage and backup requirements. Fortunately, optical networking and Ethernet provide the capacity and deployment flexibility to allow healthcare providers to increase their usage as bandwidth demands escalate over time, negating the obstacles that have historically hindered patient care, especially in rural areas of the country.

HMT HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY March 2013 19

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