Healthcare makes up a large segment of all worldwide economies. It is a very diverse environment made up of many entities, which can include large health systems, children’s medical centers, rural hospitals, ambulatory facilities, urgent care centers, laboratories, medical testing facilities, pharmacies, therapy centers, surgical facilities, long-term care facilities, teaching and research organizations, ambulance and mobile units, component and equipment manufacturers, vendors and distributors, etc. These entities are often spread over a large geographical area and are heavily regulated by each respective government. Correspondingly, the networks employed by the industry reflect the inherent complexity.
The healthcare industry is seeing rapid and evolutionary changes due to recent government regulations, primarily concerning the conversion of medical records to a digital format. This is expected to generate massive amounts of new data and will continue to do so for years to come. Many of the existing network infrastructures do not currently have the capacity to handle the expected increase in data traffic. These networks need to be responsive, since practitioners may be geographically far from the data centers where the information is typically stored. For example, video conferencing and tele-health initiatives are used to allow surgeons to collaborate during complex operations or to allow physicians and nurses to directly communicate with the patient at home. Additionally, digital X-rays are transmitted to radiologists in remote locations. In such cases, it is essential that there be minimal latency in the network. Healthcare IT networks also need to be reliable in every sense – patient monitors and infusion pumps, etc. are increasingly controlled over the network. Downtime is not acceptable in a healthcare IT network, no matter how small, since it could literally be a matter of life and death.
Healthcare IT networks of the future must be flexible with the integration of existing components, scale to handle massive amounts of data and be extremely simple to manage. Brocade has the expertise in designing and deploying networks that meet the stringent requirements of the healthcare industry. Over the coming weeks, a series of papers will be released with details surrounding Brocade’s healthcare network reference architecture.