The healthcare industry is counting on telemedicine technology to bring consulting doctors together in real time to help patients, even if those doctors are hundreds of miles apart. Like their urban counterparts, rural healthcare patients, physicians and technicians can reap the rewards from the evolving technology, but only if rural healthcare facilities are properly wired and managed to make telemedicine work as efficiently and effectively as those urban healthcare partners. With expanded federal funding available through the Universal Service Fund (USF), healthcare facilities have an opportunity to access:
- State of the Art Telecommunications
- Opportunities to Plan for Future Network Growth
- Reliable Emergency Management for Disaster Recovery
- Comprehensive, easy to Implement Maintenance Features
With USF dollars available, there is no reason for healthcare providers, either in hospitals or small clinics, to under-scope telecommunications networks. All healthcare providers can now have access to the same network quality, features and designs whether they are urban or rural. However, there are always hurdles to overcome on the road to innovation.
Cost-Effective Network Design
While there are many pieces to designing an effective telecommunications network, experienced companies know how to evaluate a healthcare facility’s current needs and make the right recommendations for the highest quality solution.
It is important to have your service provider:
- Specify Bandwidth Capacity Available to Each Facility
- Explain how a New Network Facilitates Telemedicine Applications
- Outline Diverse Carrier Services to Ensure Maximum Reliability
- Provide Various Modes of Service (Coax, Satellite, Copper, Fiber Optics)
Here’s an amazing fact. In the year 2014, more data will be created than all of the previous year’s combined! And, the healthcare industry will be the single-largest contributor to that data creation. That trend is going to grow with exciting advances in telemedicine. Urban and rural healthcare providers, as the largest contributor to this data expansion, must be ready to handle that exponential jump in data.
Take a look at today’s healthcare telecommunications network infrastructure. Healthcare data networks have not decreased in scope, they’ve grown! This expansion in bandwidth is due to the increase in data generation over just the past few years. Remember when you used 16 slice MRI scanners? They are now 64 slice MRI scanners and growing! These advancements in technology will continue to expand the need for more bandwidth over time, and healthcare providers need to be prepared.
Here’s what to look for in smart system design:
- Ease of bandwidth expansion - It is important to grow without having to “fork lift” the network. It is expensive and time consuming to make these changes, not to mention the interruption to your operations.
- Expert data monitoring – You must ensure that the road your data is riding upon is not being congested with unwanted traffic. You don’t want to be worried about how long it takes to transmit your radiology image because others are using the system.
- Maximum speed internet connections for reliable EMR, voice and video systems - If you are on a hosted EMR service, you rely upon a very fast connection to the public internet. Voice over IP services need room to effectively work. And, you can’t have your video streams stopping and starting. You should plan for these needs and then double it.
With new regulations requiring our nation’s healthcare providers to use electronic medical records, the reliance upon a network that is up and working at “all times” is imperative. Not only is it important to keep the business side of the facility operating, issues related to effective patient care, access to clinical data and more have now become the cornerstone of the viability of the facility. By using today’s technology options for storing records and remote system operations, administrators, doctors and patients can have the peace of mind knowing that all important information is safe and secure, even in the face of a natural disaster.
You should have your supplier specify:
- An Option for Cloud Computing & Data Service
- Design & Recommendations on Network Connectivity Redundancy
- A Hardware System allowing Facility Personnel to make System Repairs without an IT Expert
Telecommunications network services are no different to support than many of the medical devices needed to provide care. Simple and easy, one-source customer care is vital to your facility’s operations, especially in rural America where access to this support infrastructure is significantly lacking.
Your telecommunications supplier should outline:
- Their Managed Support Services, Including how they Support 24/7 Emergency Response
- How they will Inventory & Catalogue Equipment to Facilitate Repairs
- How they will Interface with your IT Staff to assist with Internal AND External Service Issues
- Their Capabilities to Provide Customized Billing
Access to these enhanced telecommunications technologies are now much more affordable for all healthcare providers. You can be on the leading edge of telemedicine by maximizing your access to federal dollars. That funding also allows you to work with a quality telecommunications carrier that can help you design, install and maintain your system. After all, your doctors, medical technicians and especially your patients deserve the best care you can give them.