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SD-WAN is Driving a Digital Transformation in Healthcare

The world of healthcare is currently undergoing a digital transformation. Patient data is transitioning from paper to electronic medical records, telemedicine lets doctors see patients over the Internet, and hospitals, urgent care facilities, and other medical offices are appearing on almost every street corner.

 

Healthcare organizations are increasingly relying on SD-WAN to drive this transition into a digitally-based, connected world. As the world of healthcare continues its digital transformation, these recent advancements in networking technology are becoming essential.

The SD-WAN market is still in an emerging stage, but one expected to grow exponentially in the next decade. According to a 2019 study from Global Market Insights (GMI), a $700 million market in 2018 is predicted to reach a $17 billion valuation by 2025.

A recent episode of the SD-WAN 360 podcast invited Scott Martin and Naman Sharma from the VMware Healthcare team to discuss new trends in healthcare’s digital transformation and how that technology is being driven by SD-WAN. Let’s dive a little deeper into some of the topics they covered and look at how healthcare companies leverage these virtual networks to make their operations more efficient while giving patients better service.

 

Digital Transformation Driving Need for SD-WAN

 

The medical industry is undergoing a significant transformation in the areas of technology and consolidation. SD-WAN network solutions give organizations in this sector the means to embrace these changes, deliver improved patient care and become more operationally efficient.

Here are the specific healthcare trends where SD-WAN is showing the most benefit:

 

Electronic Medical Records (EMR)

In the halcyon days of the early 21st Century, paper records remained the most widely-used medium for storing patient data. Obviously, this approach raised issues moving to different doctors and care facilities, keeping records from getting lost and making sure there were no errors.

EMR provides a single patient record that can be accessed and updated from anywhere. With patients relying on more partner practices, urgent care facilities and off-site medical centers, having medical records that can be easily shared and transferred is crucial. This also provides a better patient experience as providers are able to give patients more access to their medical records.

The increased availability and flexibility of EMR also adds additional cybersecurity and HIPAA challenges. The number of breached patient records tripled in the past year to over 15 million records in 2018. SD-WAN provides care system security that can apply microsegmentations to an EMR system. These gateways allow access from multiple points and locations without threatening all patient data.

 

Cloud Applications

A few years ago the healthcare industry was hesitant to put applications on the cloud with concerns over cloud security, HIPAA compliance and NIST regulations. Now the industry is adopting many new SaaS applications and moving others to private and public clouds. The shift to cloud to support EHR and cloud applications allows for more flexibility and availability of patient records and systems while also reducing costs.

SD-WAN allows healthcare providers to ensure constant network uptime and connectivity by creating a single pane of glass across their entire infrastructure. Centralized network visibility allows organizations to monitor cloud based workloads and reduce their overall hardware footprint.

To fit in with the new hybrid cloud infrastructures healthcare organizations are building, new SD-WAN solutions are completely cloud-delivered and cloud-based to provide more flexible deployment options.

 

Telemedicine

Everybody wants easy access to healthcare services. This is one of the main reasons behind the growth of telemedicine. It’s now possible to see a doctor online using a process as simple as starting a FaceTime or Skype session.

Patients easily connect with their doctor, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist no matter their location. Leveraging this technology innovation now makes it possible to provide medical services to underserved rural regions across the country.

A reliance on telemedicine requires SD-WAN technology to optimize connectivity and provide seamless and fast access to cloud applications and EHR.

 

IoT and Connected Medical Devices

The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) is increasing the number of medical devices that connect to the network and transmit data. Many of these are older legacy devices running operating systems that aren’t patched and now present a significant security vulnerability. Being able to connect these devices securely without affecting the backend infrastructure is critical.

As the healthcare organization’s infrastructure becomes more distributed, SD-WAN is increasingly necessary to provide control and automation that can scale to the needs of the network.

 

Mergers and Acquisitions

The importance of that last point really hits home when considering the increased number of mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare sector. Onboarding a new family of medical facilities – hospitals, doctors offices, etc. – is a simpler process when using SD-WAN. The days of wiring MPLS circuits – a costly and inefficient process for smaller facilities – are beginning to wane.

SD-WAN solutions like VMware SD-WAN by VeloCloud that offer various deployment models including cloud internet-only, cloud hybrid and on-premises hybrid provide healthcare organizations with more agility when bringing new offices and facilities into their network.

SD-WAN is bringing the security, cloud management and end-to-end network visibility the healthcare industry is increasingly demanding. For more information on VMWare’s specific vision for how healthcare embraces digital transformation through SD-WAN, listen to the full interview on the SD-WAN 360 Podcast.