The healthcare industry has seen a major growth in outpatient care over the past decade. Patient preferences, telemedicine and more sophisticated outpatient technology all present major opportunities for healthcare providers. US outpatient revenue grew to $472 billion in 2017, compared to $498 billion for inpatient services, and is expected to surpass inpatient revenue if the trend continues.
As healthcare companies aim to create locations that offer more convenience and less capital-intensive care, they are also finding opportunities to scale. This rising trend has led to many healthcare industries mirroring the same structure and challenges of retail organizations.
From a networking perspective, healthcare organizations now face all of the concerns of a traditional hospital network, along with new issues related to managing retail locations. As the medical industry undergoes this transformation, many healthcare providers are transitioning to a cloud-based healthcare network with software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN).
The Intersection of Healthcare and Retail
Australian-based optometry retail company George & Matilda Eyecare needed to connect various networks after consolidating multiple optometry offices under the umbrella of a single brand name. Problems in the network were difficult to identify, let alone address.
George & Matilda turned to VMware SD-WAN™ by VeloCloud® to meet their network performance needs. It provided the tools necessary to pinpoint and thwart issues in the network automatically, while effectively routing traffic among its various branch offices.
Many healthcare providers migrating to the cloud have championed SD-WAN as a way to manage the complexity of their wireless networks. Based upon the principles of software-defined networking (SDN), SD-WAN ensures data reaches its destination swiftly by effectively routing network traffic from a centralized control plane. Leveraging the technology, network administrators can determine the best route to direct traffic flows, as well as provide services throughout the network, irrespective of the underlying hardware.
Growing, geographically distributed organizations like George & Matilda face a number of networking challenges— let’s take a look at some of them.
Maintaining Network Performance of Various Branch Offices
SD-WAN makes it easier to manage multiple branch office networks from a centralized control plan. This minimizes the amount of people required to oversee them, which is particularly useful for healthcare providers with more network locations than IT staff. Some of the most important benefits George & Matilda saw included:
Simplified branch network: While a single office may be able to get by with a data center-centric model, George & Matilda, an organization with multiple branches, faced significant costs by taking this route. By moving to a cloud-based, SaaS network model, they were able to eliminate bottlenecks and network performance issues and reduce costs through more efficient bandwidth usage.
Network security: SD-WAN technology better protects digital medical records through encryption. George & Matilda, for instance, were able to secure their patients’ data and privacy using SD-WAN. The platform provided point-to-point encryption across the network to secure services on the web. With VMware SD-WAN, George & Matilda can authenticate devices through the management plane.
Ongoing monitoring: With full visibility into the network edge, SD-WAN allows healthcare organizations to maintain a large infrastructure with limited IT resources. SaaS-based deployments allow for fixes without requiring IT teams on-site.
Focus on Patient Care and Customer Service
Through the use of telemedicine, more efficient order management and other technology, healthcare providers have the tools necessary to deliver high quality service. Unfortunately, many providers are forced to spend time troubleshooting technical issues rather than focusing on their strengths.
By transitioning to completely cloud-based SaaS support, George & Matilda is able to limit hardware costs and maintenance and take the responsibility of network fixes completely off the branch offices. Using SD-WAN, bottlenecks in network traffic can be deterred, ensuring each branch office has high connectivity. SD-WAN technology also gives their network flexibility by adjusting to traffic flow changes and steering traffic based on predefined network policies. This improves their responsiveness to patient needs and helps keep the competitive advantage they’ve gained through fast, efficient service.
Enabling Rapid Expansion
For expanding healthcare organizations like George & Matilda, which planned to grow its number of offices from 57 to 250 in 2019, building a scalable and cost-effective system for deploying and managing new branches is critical. This is especially true for companies that plan to expand through acquiring independent offices and integrating them into the network.
SD-WAN allows you to standardize network configurations and simplify deployments without the need for IT staff on-site.
As healthcare companies add more cloud applications and branch offices, finding solutions to support increasingly complex networks is critical. SD-WAN can help future-proof healthcare networks to allow rapid growth in a way that is scalable, secure and cost-effective.
For the complete story of how George & Matilda Eyecare used VMware SD-WAN to support a full SaaS-based network topology, read the full case study here.