Every aspect of the healthcare field is impacted by technology – from the explosion of mobile platforms to increasingly complex Electronic Health Record systems (EHRs). EHRs are a business-critical advance in technology for the healthcare industry and have led to remarkable successes in medical treatments and how daily care is delivered and monitored.
Thanks to a greater and more seamless flow of information within a digital healthcare infrastructure, the field of medicine has benefited from advances in communication technologies.
Digital technologies, including the platform you are reading this on – smart phone, tablet, other web-enabled device – have transformed our daily lives and practically all industries. In healthcare, advances in technology have led to remarkable successes in medical treatments and are driving broader changes to how daily care is delivered and monitored. Thanks to a greater and more seamless flow of information within a digital healthcare infrastructure, the field of medicine has benefited from advances in communication technologies.
Think about your last visit to a clinic or hospital. Were computers or tablets used by doctors or nurses to access your records and input new information? Probably. The adoption of Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems leverages digital technology and is transforming the way care is delivered and compensated. With EHRs, information is available whenever and wherever it is needed. The website www.healthit.gov says, “With electronic health records, providers can have reliable access to complete personal health information that can help them make the right decisions.”
What’s the difference between Electronic Health Records and Electronic Medical Records?
Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are a digital version of the paper charts in the clinician’s office. An EMR contains the medical and treatment history of the patients in one practice. But the information in EMRs doesn’t travel easily out of the practice. In fact, the patient’s record might even have to be printed out and delivered by mail to specialists and other members of the care team. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) do all those things—and more. EHRs focus on the total health of the patient—going beyond standard clinical data collected in the provider’s office and include a broader view of a patient’s care. EHRs are designed to reach out beyond the health organization that originally collects and compiles the information. They are built to share information with other healthcare providers, such as laboratories and specialists, so they contain information from all the clinicians involved in the patient’s care. The information moves with the patient—to the specialist, the hospital, the nursing home, the next state or even across the country. EHRs are designed to be accessed by all people involved in the patients care—including the patients themselves. For more information on the differences between EMRs and EHRs click here.
To support widespread use of EHR systems, the federal government committed resources via the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, a component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. To properly implement EHR, the government also recognizes the need for high speed connectivity.
The healthit.gov website states, “It is critical you have the broadband capabilities to support your electronic health record (EHR) system. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends the following minimum bandwidth speeds…” followed by a list of practice sizes and speeds, ranging from 4 Mbps for a single physician practice up to 1,000 Mbps for a large medical center.
Because medical practices deal with life threatening conditions, uninterrupted access to patient records and other information is critical. These networks must be always available and secure. In response to possible security risks, the government released nine guides for Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience (SAFER). The first guide covers High Priority Practices; the first two considerations relate to backup, downtime and redundancy.
1.1 Data and application configurations are backed up and hardware systems are redundant.
1.2 EHR downtime and reactivation policies and procedures are complete, available, and reviewed regularly.
The System Configuration SAFER guide recognize the need for 24/7/365 access to patient data and the best practice of maintaining data and operational systems “on at least two geographically distinct hosting sites that are mirrored in real-time (i.e., ‘hot’ or ‘warm’ sites).” This redundancy reduces the risk of a single natural or man-made disaster to disable operating capacity. It also calls out the need for “at least two physically distinct network connections between the hosting sites.”
Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) create robust networks using multiple carrier connections, across geographically dispersed locations. SD-WAN provides redundant, secure, never-down network functionality, which is better than WAN link failover, and helps healthcare IT professionals meet their growing needs.
Case Study: Manchester Community Health
Take Manchester Community Health Center, located in Manchester, New Hampshire. They have an EHR system that serves a collaborative community of healthcare centers throughout New Hampshire. All of their patient charts, scheduling and billing are electronically hosted in a facility about 50 miles away. They struggled with intermittent WAN connectivity issues, continuous outages and slow connectivity.
“We needed to eliminate outages, improve uptime and speed up connectivity,” said Calvin L. Dowling, Director of Information Technology at Manchester Community Health Center.
Manchester Community Health Center chose to implement an Ecessa solution. Ecessa helped with the upfront configuration to guarantee all proper protocols were successfully passed back and forth between sites. As a result, the organization was able to dramatically improve uptime and ensure there were no bandwidth issues. “The product has been a perfect performer,” said Dowling. Click the link to download the full case study.
Case Study: CORE Health Networks
CORE Health Networks implements medical data management systems for top-rated companies and operates a nationwide network of over 1,200 occupational medicine clinics to serve their clients. Thousands of clients are accessing their hosted solution at any given time. Ensuring Never Down™ connectivity is vital to CORE Health Networks. Redundancy is key, both for communication links and WAN equipment.
Chad Scott, CORE Health Networks Managing Partner and IT Director for CORE, LLC, stated that one of the most important aspects of his position is “Making sure that we have good uptime for customers that use our hosted software applications. We have to make sure they are online and available for our customers at all times and have minimal downtime. Our customers may be scheduling after hours, nights and weekends.”
“That’s why CORE Health Networks uses Ecessa products.” Said Scott, “Everything that the Ecessa units do makes my life easier. It keeps us online, which also keeps our customers happy.”
Learn more about how Ecessa helps healthcare organizations manage network challenges at www.ecessa.com/healthcare.