Business Continuity for Senior Care: How an SD-WAN Protects Your Patients
Your nursing home or skilled nursing facility likely relies heavily on your Internet connection for delivering patient care. If your electronic health record (EHR) or electronic medical record (EMR) system is hosted in the cloud, staff access to patient treatment plans, physician orders, medication dosages and other critical information depends on a reliable Internet link. Plus, if you rely on voice-over-IP for your telephone systems, that’s another system that is absolutely critical for patient care. It’s needed for making 911 calls, timely communication with physicians, receiving urgently needed lab results, and the many, many other types of medical information that are routinely handled by phone. What happens if your primary Internet connection fails?
Regulators are keenly aware of the importance of communication. That’s why Internet uptime is woven into the fabric of healthcare regulations that deal with business continuity and disaster recovery, specific to senior care, at the state and federal levels.
Addressing those requirements is vital for protecting your patients and your organization. Fortunately, there’s a relatively new technology that’s ideal for managing redundant Internet links and providing intelligent failover. SD-WAN stands for Software-Defined Wide Area Network. It’s a mouthful that boils down to a simple idea: using software instructions to intelligently choose between multiple wide area network connections (that is, multiple Internet connections) when sending or receiving data traffic.
Out with the Old — In with the New
Here’s why an SD-WAN is better than the old approach to providing redundant failover. The old method for a backup Internet connection was to maintain one connection as the primary and designate another as secondary. This was an all-or-nothing proposition: The secondary sat idle until needed. The setup required regular testing to verify the secondary was still functional.
An SD-WAN allows both connections to serve as the primary. The software intelligently chooses between the two connections based on various factors, such as the type of traffic (voice or different types of data) and the capability and quality of the connection (available bandwidth, latency and similar parameters). Two or more connections can be actively used, and when one link goes down, the traffic passes to the other automatically and immediately. Here’s how well it works: If you initiate a voice-over-IP call, and then unplug the connection, the SD-WAN switches to the other connection with little or no hint of an interruption in the conversation.
Rather than the secondary connection sitting idle, it can be put to use and effectively increase the available bandwidth. The pooled bandwidth and redundancy make it possible to choose less expensive connections, such as combining a cable and DSL connection rather than more-expensive fiber circuits. If you procure the two connections from different providers, then you’re protected if either provider experiences an outage. The SD-WAN will ensure that access to critical systems will remain.
Modern SD-WAN implementations can be configured without entering traditional network parameters such as IP addresses or port numbers. This makes an SD-WAN especially attractive to organizations that have multiple sites, as is often the case in senior care. SD-WAN technology masks the complexities of maintaining redundant connections and switching them across multiple sites. It just works, which is what we all want from our technology.
At FIT Solutions, we work as advisors to our senior-care clients on multiple aspects of IT. Assistance with the technology aspects of your backup, disaster recovery and emergency preparedness plans is a key part of the offering. We know the legal and regulatory requirements you face, and can provide recommendations on administrative practices, technological implementation and support, or active management of your systems. We can help you determine whether SD-WAN technology — and which of the available options — is right for you. Call us today at 888-339-5694.