A hospital’s network is the foundation for the critical applications that run on it, where most of those applications are related to the hospital’s core businesses.

The return on the investments made in electronic medical records (EMR), picture archiving and communication system (PACS), clinical imaging systems and workstations on wheels, can only be truly realized if those assets are always available to the people in need in a reliable, secure and highly optimized way, when at a fixed location or while mobile.

In addition, the hospital’s network is under constant pressure from new requirements driven by emerging technologies and digital social behavior. Clinicians need access to information on their mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, patients and visitors demand internet connectivity for social networking and entertainment, while secure onboarding and connectivity of a multitude of IoT devices and sensors, used to create “smart” hospitals, are just some of features that would heavily influence clinicians and patients experience in a hospital. 

Separate networks everywhere
Today, many hospitals still have separate network infrastructures for every department to provide the security and performance they expect. Separate ones could exist for: 
  - Bio medical devices, such as infusion pumps and meters
  - Security, covering video cameras and secure access to buildings
  - Facilities, which includes laundry, kitchens and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems
  - Patient entertainment, such as TV and Internet access
  - Clinicians, for their communication and EMR access system

Each network infrastructure includes its own networking and management equipment, all connected to servers, gateways and other platforms.

Healthcare medical staff connected

Is this optimal?
Most vendors would be happy to sell hospitals networking equipment to build out multiple, disparate networks. This would provide some level of security by preventing a hacker who accesses one network from accessing another. Unfortunately, this is not the most business savvy approach. With the cost of managing and supporting each network separately, the burden on IT and the hospital would not be sustainable in the long term.

Is there a better way? 
Fortunately, there is a better way to gain efficiency and be cost effective without losing security. One way is to deploy a high-performing, single network infrastructure with a secure, automated, efficient, virtual private network (VPN) for every department. High performance would be delivered by leveraging the latest wire-speed (LAN) and Wave 2 (Wi-Fi) technologies. You would be able to secure the network by providing a layered approach – securing the edge of the network to the core – including the network switches’ operating system. The solution could be automated by using an award-winning technology called iFab to help deploy, configure and manage moves, adds, and changes in the network. This solution is efficient because it uses Shortest Path Bridging (SPB) to optimize the network performance and uses all links in the network.

The networks would still be virtual since each department would be segmented in essence, separated from another department by using VPN and IoT containment. So, just like the multiple physical networks are separated, IoT containment secures the VPN from access breaches should they occur in other parts of the network. 

Now that you only have one network infrastructure, you only need one network management system.

Where can you find such a solution?
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) has been providing the technologies described above to healthcare providers around the world, helping them keep their patients data private yet delivering the information to care providers as needed, without a lapse in security.

ALE provides OmniVista 2500, a network management system (NMS) with Smart Analytics, that knows which applications are running in your network so you can optimize and secure at the app level, and Proactive Lifecycle Management (PALM), to automate keeping your network up to date with software updates and maintenance plans. If cloud management is your desire, OmniVista Cirrus provides the same capabilities as OmniVista 2500 with a platform that provides zero footprint, zero deployment and zero maintenance.

When hospitals improve their network infrastructure, they provide better services for clinicians, patients and administrative staff, which ultimately helps optimize the patient care pathway.

To learn more about how to develop an ideal network infrastructure, download the Hospital Networking Guide.

Tags - Healthcare

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About the author
Daniel Faurlin

Daniel Faurlin

Director, Product & Solution Marketing and Head of Network Solutions for Healthcare - ‎Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise

Daniel is responsible for developing, positioning, communicating and educating internal and external clients, on the value proposition of ALE solutions in the Transportation and Healthcare verticals. He has worked in start-ups, small-to-large enterprise businesses, in a variety of executive leadership roles. Daniel is an Electrical Engineering graduate from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.

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