The year 2011 was one in which I learned much about the healthcare industry. It started in June of last year in a moment where my visions of ice hockey glory vastly exceeded my skill level. The result was a shattered ankle and a 7-month journey through many facets of the healthcare system. At the same time, I became a complex collection of data and information in the various healthcare provider information systems that treated me. Data and information that needed to be stored, transmitted and shared all over the metro Denver area and beyond. (I wonder if I am “big data”)
Over the course of many doctor waiting room visits, I had the opportunity to think about the networks these various healthcare providers might employ to enable their business. While common in their industry, the various organizations I touched provide a rich diversity in which to consider data network technologies and their role in the healthcare industry.
The smiling and friendly EMT folks that skipped their breakfast to pick me up at the rink that morning are part of a nationwide emergency response organization that captures and shares data quickly and efficiently to both local care providers and national emergency and insurance bodies.
The emergency room team that received me ramped up the volume and size of my patient data by adding PACS image content. The emergency room is part of a state-wide Colorado hospital organization that reaches across 13 hospitals and many other clinics and partner organizations. Once they got a good look at the crooked spider web I used to call my ankle, they put me back in the ambulance and sent me off for surgery at their larger metro hospital. While my chauffeured ride did not include the highway treatment of lights and sirens, my PACS images and the doctor collaboration shot off with the heightened QoS to my new best friend the orthopedic surgeon and the main hospital receiving staff.
The Orthopedic practice is my final addition to the tale of healthcare provider diversity. Their group of well-practiced surgeons (we do live near mountains you know) are a metro-Denver group with multiple offices for patient care. Each of their offices includes the full set of exam rooms, fancy beeping things and x-ray machines. I’ve visited a few of their offices and in each case they always had all my images ready for viewing.
What I concluded across all of this is that there is no one size fits all answer to the data networking needs of healthcare providers. It doesn’t make sense that they all adopt MPLS VPNs, or singularly employ Private Line services or simply broadband to the Internet. The reality is that all of these organizations share some applications, a lot of data and require a mix of networking technologies to meet their application performance HIE requirements and security needs.
If you are in the healthcare industry and are planning to attend the National HIMMS conference Feb 22 – 25, I will be presenting a session next Friday to compare and contrast the various network technologies available and how they might play a role in your organization.
By the way, if you’re wondering, my new, metal-infused ankle is recovering nicely to the point that I am now back on the ice and happy I wasn’t able to sell my gear on craigslist. I wonder if I still have eligibility for the US Olympic team…