Monday, October 29, 2012

Electronic Medical Records and Connectivity Boost Healthcare Efficiency

One key to stemming the rise of health care costs and improving patient care is the move away from paper-based systems toward automation and electronic medical records. The beauty of electronic records is that once they are created, they can be stored, duplicated and transmitted far faster and less expensively than paper forms. Physicians and other health care providers also have the opportunity to get far more comprehensive information on a patient than what is provided by typical paper records.

Services that help you make the move to electronic medical records...Electronic medical records, also called electronic health records, include such things as prescriptions, diagnoses, and patient data. They also include electronic imaging files such as X-ray, CT, PET, MRI and ultrasound results. This dramatically increases the size of the files compared to what you’d expect from simply digitizing written forms.

The irony of moving to electronic medial records is that the ability to transfer files from location to location, a major advantage of keeping everything in electronic form, can actually get bogged down to the point where you miss the old paper forms. This is due to both the volume of traffic increasing due to more records moving through the system and the sheer size of records with images attached.

The solution is to increase network bandwidth. Your internal LAN may have been upgraded already to handle massive file transfers efficiently. The big bottleneck is generally the WAN links. These connections go to insurance companies, physicians offices, therapy facilities, and other health care locations. If they are off-campus, you’ll almost certainly be dealing with metro or long haul network connections.

The days when a T1 connection seemed as fast as you’d ever need are pretty much over in the health care industry. A minimum entry point is now typically 10 Mbps for a smaller organization. You may not be sending and receiving that many records, but you don’t want to wait all day for them to transfer. Hospitals and other larger facilities really need fiber optic connections. Gigabit Ethernet is not at all unreasonable or uncommon these days. The prices for this bandwidth level have dropped more than an order of magnitude over what you had to pay a few years ago. There is are more providers competing for your business and technologies such as Ethernet over Fiber that challenge traditional SONET fiber optic services.

Another major concern is security. While paper files can be put behind locked doors and very carefully distributed, electronic files can be accessed via network weaknesses by those who have no right to the information. This means that network security is paramount for any organization handling sensitive patient information. One new approach to protecting data is the Cloud Firewall Service offered by Integra Telecom. This is a perimeter based system that carefully regulates what can enter the network via Internet connections such as log-ins from remote users. Inter-office connections are secured through the Integra MPLS network or your own VPN.

In fact, many medical organizations are moving or at least considering a move to cloud based computing, storage and communications to reduce costs and provide the rapidly scaleable performance needed to handle varying workloads. This puts additional demands on your metro and wide area network connections plus the need for robust security in the cloud. It is projected that healthcare organizations could account for over 20% of the cloud computing market within 5 years.

Is your healthcare organization bogged down by slow network connections or looking to expand to meet rising demand? A number of major network service providers have packaged specifically tailored to meet the needs of healthcare organizations from physicians offices on up to the largest hospitals. Get features and prices on bandwidth and cloud services that are right for the size of your organization.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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