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An efficient network: The Fabric of a complex paperless hospital system

How Concord Hospital is reducing costs and increasing efficiencies with Extreme Fabric Connect

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As CTO of a large regional hospital system, I know that the network is vital to everything. I consider the network in the same critical category as electricity, oxygen, and water. It needs to be available 24x7x365 to support Concord Hospital’s half a million patients and over 5,000 network users across our 30 locations.

Because we don’t do anything on paper, the network can never go down. Extreme Fabric Connect has solved that problem for us. It provides a secure, self-healing, highly-available network to serve our patients effectively in our complex paperless environment. 

All the Benefits of MPLS, None of the Headaches

We decided to upgrade our network from Split Multi-Link Trunking to Fabric Connect to get the self-networking benefits of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) without the complexity. Fabric Connect is like having a carrier-class MPLS network, where you can put any network anywhere and only the right people can see it.

After considerable planning, and working closely with Extreme, we were able to cut our entire hospital system over to Fabric Connect in about four hours. I know of several hospitals in New England that performed similar big-bang network cut overs and had disastrous results and crippled the organizations.

Better Technology at a Better Price

Healthcare systems are under extreme pressure to accommodate the growing number of patients coming in through the expanding healthcare exchanges. At the same time, Medicaid and Medicare are applying downward pressure on costs. Concord Hospital has already seen a substantial increase in the number of patients we treat, while Medicare and Medicaid reimburse 38 and 10 cents on the dollar, respectively.

So we cannot afford to be inefficient. Our new Fabric Connect network is helping us accomplish this. When we evaluated other Fabric solutions, we discovered that the cost savings with Extreme were huge. The fact that we did not have to pay a premium for Extreme’s superior technology sold the deal.

Securing Devices Simply Through Segmentation

Our No. 1 corporate priority for the past 10 to 15 years has been security — and making sure our network protects our patients and their data.

We already have thousands of IoT devices and that is only going to grow. Everything is going to be connected to the network. We went from wired medical devices to everything being wireless, so we have to build wireless networks that can support all these devices – as many as 2,000-3,000 devices on the network at any one time.

Extreme Fabric Connect has given us the ability to secure and protect sensitive data with network segmentation. We had always wanted network segmentation and tried different approaches over the years, but none worked quite right. Now, we are able to isolate certain devices and provision the segment endpoints simply.

Many Network Efficiencies Add Up to Big Cost Savings

The days of provisioning individual devices are long gone; we don’t even think about it anymore. We’ve had lots of problems over the years stemming from forgetting to put a VLAN somewhere; that would burn us all the time! 

Now, moves, adds, and changes happen dynamically, which saves us a lot of time. The simplicity of Fabric Connect allows hospital staff to seamlessly self-provision their own devices so our network people don’t have to get involved, which is another huge time savings.

All the little things add up to a lot of resource savings and make the network more efficient. Case in point: the ability to plug in any device anywhere and have it be secure has saved us the cost of an entire full-time engineer. The ability to know about every device on our network and where it’s supposed to be allows our three network guys to be able to move from dealing with the day-to-day operational stuff to getting involved with more forward-looking planning. 

The Network is More Critical Than Ever

We are one of the few hospitals in New Hampshire that has been on the Most Wired list for healthcare systems for the past 15 years. Concord Hospital has a long reputation as a healthcare provider that leverages technology to improve patient care.

We are now in the midst of replacing our EMR system and are using the network to roll out VDI. We ditched the PCs and are putting thin clients everywhere. With no more Windows PCs, the network now becomes even more critical.

To increase capacity and scale within our core and to provide increased control, visibility, and management of the end-to-end network, we are looking at the latest innovations from Extreme, such as the VSP 8600 and Extreme Management Center.

Mark Starry is the Chief Technology Officer of Concord Hospital. He has more than 30 years of experience in information security and technology. For more information about Concord Hospital, visit their website.