Healthcare IT Blog

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A Roadmap for Optimizing Healthcare IT Connectivity

Today we’ll discuss one of the “unsung heroes” of the cloud computing revolution: wide area network (WAN) connectivity. Modern cloud services depend on consistent, reliable, and fast connectivity between you–the user–and the cloud computing environment–data centers containing powerful servers. 

Until recently, this type of connectivity has been prohibitively expensive; but now, fast and reliable services are available at a cost within reach of even the smallest businesses. With that said, not all services are created equal, and the quality of a site’s connectivity can make or break its users’ experience and productivity levels.

In the realm of healthcare IT, what does “connectivity” mean? First, let’s understand that the term “WAN” refers to any voice or data networking technology that extends outside of the local premises. Historically, three types of WAN services were relevant to healthcare:

  • Telephone trunking 
  • Internet access
  • Site-to-site data networking

Today, with the advent of Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems, virtual private networks (VPNs), and software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), the lines between these three circuit types have been blurred. In many cases, Internet access is the only relevant circuit type at a modern business site: voice and site-to-site data are simply packets traversing the Internet.

More than almost any other technology decision, connectivity choices are extremely site- and application-specific. Many factors influence the decision-making process when choosing circuits for a particular practice site, and the following are some examples:

  • The types of network applications used at the site
  • The number of users at the site
  • The site’s tolerance for downtime
  • Internet service provider availability
  • The reputation of the service providers in the site’s specific local area
  • Budget
  • The availability of newer technologies such as SD-WAN at the site

Obviously, decisions on circuit purchases must be made when a new site is brought online. However, as the connectivity landscape and business requirements change, it makes sense to periodically reevaluate the available options. An entire industry of consultants exists to assist businesses with procuring telecommunication services, but any reputable IT managed service provider (MSP) can provide this service on behalf of their customers, often at no additional cost! At a minimum, connectivity procurement should be reevaluated at each service provider contract renewal point. 

Start with a Site Evaluation

How will a consultant approach solving this problem? First, site requirements and attributes will be collected. Then, the consultant will determine which service providers and technologies are available at the location in question. Based on those results, the consultant may decide to use an innovative new technology: software-defined wide area networking, or SD-WAN.

SD-WAN: The Top Choice for Fast and Reliable Connectivity

This term SD-WAN describes a collection of technologies designed to combine desirable attributes of multiple WAN circuit types into a single virtual connection. Because it’s such a general term, SD-WAN is often jokingly referred to as “salesperson-defined WAN,” but in reality the technology achieves a very significant goal: it increases reliability and performance while minimizing recurring costs by combining the best features of multiple WAN circuit technologies.

Here’s an example: dedicated fiber Internet access circuits are expensive, but have excellent reliability and performance characteristics. Basic cable-based Internet access–the connections found in many American homes–is cheap and fast, but not necessarily reliable. SD-WAN can combine fiber and cable circuits, routing application traffic that is critical and latency-sensitive over the fiber connection, and bandwidth-intensive, but less sensitive traffic, over the cable connection.

And, if one of the connections goes down for any reason, SD-WAN seamlessly moves traffic over to the remaining circuit. This fully-automated technology is especially important with today’s demanding applications, such as VoIP telephony and video telemedicine, which have little tolerance for poor network conditions.

Benefits of SD-WAN ConnectivityPhysical Security

To break it down simply, SD-WAN provides the best connectivity for your practice, if it’s possible. That’s because this type of network provides:

  • Increased bandwidth at a lower cost
  • Centralized management across branch networks
  • Full visibility into the network

In addition, SD-WAN technology provides healthcare organizations with more connectivity options and vendor options when building a network.

Choose an Experienced Connectivity Consultant

Choosing a reputable consultant who is familiar with your practice’s locations is essential for a good WAN connectivity outcome. Even circuit providers that have a good overall reputation may have localized impairments in certain areas. Knowing about these issues before signing long-term contracts is important, and an experienced consultant will help ferret out problems ahead of time. 

Take a minute to think about when the last time your connectivity service providers were evaluated. Has your network changed since then, such as through the addition of a new technology like VoIP? Has it been more than a few years? If so, there are likely opportunities for cost savings and performance improvements. 

In particular, keep an eye out for high-cost legacy technologies such as Primary Rate Interface (PRI) telephone trunks, Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) analog telephone lines, or Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) private data circuits. These can often be updated to more modern solutions with significant opportunities for cost savings. 

Reach out to your healthcare IT managed service provider or telecom consultant to be sure that your practice is using the best services and technologies available! And if you aren’t satisfied with your MSP, or would like a second opinion, reach out to us. At PEAKE Technology Partners, we provide secure and reliable connectivity for your practice. Schedule a conversation today to see how we can help you.

Reach out to your healthcare IT managed service provider or telecom consultant to be sure that your practice is using the best services and technologies available! And if you aren’t satisfied with your MSP, or would like a second opinion, reach out to us. At PEAKE Technology Partners, we provide secure and reliable connectivity for your practice. Call 866-357-3253 or fill out the contact form to schedule a conversation to see how we can help you. 

by Patrick Shoemaker, Partner

May 13, 2021

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