Why A Dose of SD-WAN Might Just Be What the Doctor Ordered

Director of Public Sector Andy Riley predicts a positive prognosis for the NHS if it’s administered the right solution.

Insomnia. The NHS is undoubtedly the biggest sufferer of never sleeping because when you’re a 24x7x365 organisation, meeting critical, life-threatening demands when the wheels never stop turning is fraught with challenges.

The healthcare landscape is unique. Clinicians and staff provide care from multiple locations – on-site at surgeries and hospitals, in off-site offices, rehab facilities, long-term care hospitals and in remote offices, and an extremely high level of application performance and availability is expected in all of them. Health records, critical Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, virtual desktops, and clinical tools and applications all need supporting.

And it’s not just doctors and nurses feeling under pressure. Ever-increasing patient populations mean more and more services need to be delivered at pace. This requires a constant non-stop shift from the infrastructure that supports and powers our entire health service. All the while, physicians, clinicians, and community healthcare staff working remotely demand an always-on, ever-ready, access to apps and data.

So it’s arguably the network managers that feel the most heat when apps don’t perform well. The infrastructure that is needed in order to effectively serve and treat the entire UK is growing increasingly complex, inflexible and most critically, costly to both deploy and manage. Some solutions such as 3D imaging, VDI, and VoIP require such high-performance WAN links while others are subject to latency, packet loss and in some instances complete WAN failure.

Additionally, with mergers and acquisitions on the increase, payments taking place online, and greater and greater amounts of data analytics needed, healthcare organisations need prescribing a robust, scalable, secure, and easy-to-manage networking infrastructure that allows them to keep up with changing technology trends.

And that cure may well be software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). Emerging as somewhat of a game changer for healthcare, SD-WAN’s easy-to-deploy architecture allows organisations to implement it alongside or over-the-top of any existing networking infrastructure – with any transport option available, and to any site regardless of location.

Further simplifying the process is the ability to control how new sites and organisations are brought into the parent network. Without SD-WAN, entirely new equipment must be deployed to each site and highly-trained technicians must spend much time installing and configuring the new equipment.

So not only does SD-WAN have the potential to provide significant benefits for both on-site and remote clinicians and healthcare staff, but can also help ease the waiting times that currently plague the entire service. It enables waiting rooms to cater for both digital natives and families; tech-savvy patients can stream video and enjoy great connections so they’re entertained while they wait. Similarly, family members can actively participate in the care of their loved ones because they have the bandwidth to view large files or video conference with their healthcare providers.

With the NHS’ heavy reliance on its network, SD-WAN is uniquely positioned to provide it with a future-proof infrastructure that can handle its increasingly challenging and stringent requirements – and maybe help it sleep a little better at night.

This article was originally published in Public Sector Focus Magazine July/August 2019

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