Due to the high level of sensitivity and confidentiality of patient and healthcare data, the network in medical institutions is constantly under government regulation. In the mean time, the rapid digitalization has also impacted the healthcare sector and institutions in this field are evolving their IT infrastructure to protect confidential data while being compliant, and SD-WAN has become the optimal solution for today’s healthcare network.

Like all the industries, IT infrastructure plays a significant role in business competitiveness, and so does healthcare sector. Today’s healthcare has expanded to be far more diverse and sophisticated than expected, so that the IT infrastructure has to be expanded as well. For example, major hospitals could have thousands of employees, multiple branch facilities, and hundreds of connected equipments. To expand the functionality of their IT infrastructure, legacy proprietary hardware equipments for each added networking function would cost them massive expense and maintenance complexity as well. Thus, SD-WAN seems to meet the flexibility and cost-effectiveness for today’s medical institutions.

How SD-WAN Benefits Healthcare IT

SD-WAN is a software-defined technology to simplify WAN (wide area network) optimization. All the WAN related functions, like routing and security policy instruction, can be implemented by software programming across all the connection points of the healthcare institutions. They no longer have to purchase additional proprietary, dedicated equipments for each added function. In fact, telemedicine has been made far easier with SD-WAN, and this will be discussed later in this article.

SD-WAN also provides easily-deployed security. Software-defined technology enables an abstraction layer of the networking hardware, allowing IT management of medical institutions to take a micro-segmentation approach, offering them visibility to all the segments of the traffic. They can remotely monitor a particular segment of the whole network, like the network of pharmacy department. With such visibility, traffic can be monitored for security policy configurations.

On the other hand, Zero-touch provisioning shortens the deployment process of SD-WAN. IT management is no longer bounded by specific solution vendor. They can just adopt white-box hardware to run selected VNFs (virtualized network functions). The zero-touch provisioning saves plenty of cost and time in deployments.

Telemedicine Becomes More Available

Telemedicine has become a major phenomenon in today’s healthcare, as the modern world is facing aging society, and SD-WAN makes this service more available to patients with inconvenience.

Traditionally, telemedicine was rarely conducted due to network bandwidth concern, since such service requires several minutes of video conference, occupying large parts of the bandwidth. Today, with SD-WAN, bandwidth has been enhanced to accommodate the needs of telemedicine. For instance, physicians can often conduct diagnose for patients and prescribe the medicine through video conferences.

Telemedicine by SD-WAN also makes first-responders far more efficient. First-responders may discover injured or ill victims in an isolated location. With the enhanced connectivity by SD-WAN, first-responders on-site can access the cloud-based medical records to retrieve medical data and receive professional advices from doctors through cloud-based video conferences.

Meanwhile, SD-WAN also empowers telehealth. The “tele”-approach in medical applications was once a concern as it is connectivity-intensive. The improved connectivity by SD-WANallows information sharing between local hospitals and major health institution so that decisions about how to take the right care of the patient can be made instantly and remotely. For instance, medical staff can conduct live video communication right away with professionals to make the right decision for the patient.

Recommended Solution

Since hospitals and various healthcare institutions are fully occupied with medical equipments, the space for the SD-WAN hardware is quite limited. Thus, compact form factor is a major consideration. Also, as discussed earlier, white-box is the optimal choice for SD-WAN to run VNFs compatibly. In other words, open architecture is critical in the success of SD-WAN deployments.

For example, NCA-1020 from Lanner Electronic is an optimal option. NCA-1020 is powered by onboard Intel® Celeron® N3010 CPU, offering satisfying performance in an open architecture. In a desktop form factor with only 5.38" x 1.40" x 4.71" in dimensions, NCA-1020can be installed in limited space while serving as a compact vCPE with multiple LAN, USB, mSATA and antenna I/O functionality.

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