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Network infrastructure

IT infrastructure convergence key to managed network services

Multiplicity of infrastructures and management has led to increased complexity installing, maintaining and troubleshooting technology-based applications and systems.

By Rod Sampson, RCDD

Rod Sampson is healthcare vertical marketing manager for Belden, which designs and manufactures signal transmission solutions for enterprise, industrial and wireless networking markets, as well as a host of specialty markets. For more information on Belden solutions:

as nurse call systems and fi re alarms. Because of their life safety implications, these systems became strictly regulated. They were, and often still are, required to have their own dedicated infrastructures. Today, however, most healthcare facilities have mul- tiple applications and systems in place that do not have life safety requirements, but which are nonetheless essential to achieving more accurate and effi cient processes for better patient care. Examples include real-time locating systems, picture archiving and communications systems, computer-based practitioner order entry systems, clinical decision-support systems, interactive patient entertain- ment services, building automation systems (security, climate control, lighting) and closed-circuit television. Many of these applica- tions and systems have been installed as needed, each with its own dedicated infra- structure. Some are managed by the building management department, some by various clinical groups, and some by the IT department. As one can imagine, this multiplic- ity of infrastructures and


management has led to increased complexity for those responsible for installing, maintaining and troubleshooting these technology-based applications and systems. Vital medical equipment and data-rich clinical and/ or diagnostic systems already place huge demands on hospital communication infrastructures. The situation will worsen as new applications are added, many of which will have an impact on the coordination and quality of pa- tient care. While there have been some attempts to build “bridges” that allow pushing and pulling of critical data from one dedicated application to another to facilitate information sharing and collaboration, too often these

14 July 2010

side from traditional telephone (voice) sys- tems, pre-Internet protocol (IP) hospital com- munication systems were primarily devoted to life safety and monitoring applications, such

bridges themselves create ineffi ciencies and potential points of failure.

The solution: IT infrastructure convergence Converging disparate technology systems by imple- menting a common communication platform upon which these systems operate has become a “best prac- tice” followed by other industries, including educational institutions, government agencies and large commercial enterprises.

High-performance, IP-based Ethernet networks are the standard for infrastructure convergence, primarily because they provide an integrated connectivity platform for real- time collaboration, monitoring and control, along with myriad voice, data, video and multimedia applications.

The converged infrastructure provides an open, standards-based foundation that can tie all the healthcare applications and systems together along one or more infrastructures. It provides the bandwidth and signal per- formance required by current systems, and is scalable to meet the requirements of future applications as well. Additional advantages of IP-based convergence include: easier installation of new patient care or facility manage- ment applications; optimal information fl ow between the facility’s equipment and systems; better accessibil- ity of information for mobile clinicians and caregivers; mitigation of duplication among existing communication infrastructures; and simplifi ed command and control via an open network, secure and non-proprietary protocol. Best of all, by following established data networking and communications industry standards, infrastructure obsolescence and the adoption of dead-end technologies can be reduced or avoided. Simplicity and effi ciency


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