Building a Robust Medical Network
MidMichigan Health and Merit Network create a network to meet the health system's needs for current and future technologies.By Brian Warkoczeski, June 2009
In June 2007, MidMichigan Health contacted Merit Network to investigate how to cost effectively engineer a wide-area network to accommodate the explosion in data traffic expected as the healthcare system transitioned to using digital diagnostic imaging, scanned records, and electronic medical records.
The connected sites would include MidMichigan's main data center in Midland, a disaster recovery site, and their 29 other facilities throughout the middle of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.
After planning discussions between Merit's network engineers and MidMichigan's IT staff, it was decided that the initial phase of this network design would involve connecting MidMichigan's four largest sites and the disaster recovery center via fiber optic cable to provide a sustainable model to manage the expected bandwidth growth and the implementation of advanced medical technologies.
To accommodate a significant boost in traffic, MidMichigan's network was redesigned, moving from a "hub and spoke" network topology to a Layer 2 mesh design. The connected facilities would link to Merit's backbone in partnership with local resources, including MMNet and M.Co.Net. In collaboration with MidMichigan, Merit also designed a new pricing structure to handle the large amounts of "on-net" traffic expected between the five locations.
"By working with partners in mid-Michigan, Merit was able to design a solution that took advantage of existing facilities, which required less investment by MidMichigan in fiber construction," according to Jason Russell, member relations director for Merit Network.
MidMichigan expects to benefit from a dramatically lower cost for the access component of the network connectivity, which will provide a flat rate for the access component and will remove the concern of having insufficient infrastructure in place to implement any new medical technology in the foreseeable future.
"By creating a new pricing model for on-net traffic that runs over a 1 Gigabit VLAN configured between specific locations, we were able to provide MidMichigan with the ability to transfer large amounts of data without incurring a large ongoing cost," said Russell.
Superior Patient CareMidMichigan Health has long been an advocate of using technology to improve patient care.
In Fall 2003, MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland became the second hospital in Michigan to offer Gamma Knife radiosurgery, which uses precisely targeted cobalt gamma radiation to treat tumors, lesions, and vascular malformations within the brain.
In 2007, MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland received approval from the Michigan Department of Community Health to expand its cardiovascular services program, offering open heart surgery, interventional cardiology, and electrophysiology services.
Through innovative uses of its new high-speed network, MidMichigan Health will further partner with medical experts and specialists to improve patient care and quality of life in mid-Michigan. Physicians, literally on the other side of the world, will be able to efficiently transmit and read digital imaging studies, improving their 24-hour capabilities in treating emergency patients.
This enhanced connectivity infrastructure will allow MidMichigan to participate in all telemedicine initiatives as they develop throughout the state, further improving its high-quality patient care.
The new connection also provides a reliable mechanism for backing up crucial data. Through a link to its remote disaster recovery site, the health care system is supporting its IT activities in real-time. The customized network design allows tagged traffic to pass to the disaster recovery site continuously at real-time speeds.
By implementing an innovative network design with superior connectivity, MidMichigan Health is capable of supporting medical technologies of today and advanced applications of the future.
About MidMichigan HealthMidMichigan Health is a partnership of health providers, services and facilities in the heart of Michigan. It is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, led by a board of directors and a 120-person corporate membership. All excess revenues go back into providing care, upgrading services, fairly compensating employees and creating a supportive work environment.
MidMichigan Health acts as a parent organization to 13 subsidiaries and also has various joint ventures and management contracts. System-wide, MidMichigan has more than 4,500 employees, 300 physicians, and 1,250 volunteers.
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