Deep in the rural roots of Centreville, Alabama – a town of around 6,000 people – lies an innovative and ground-breaking community health center that’s rewriting what it means to deliver rural healthcare.
Cahaba Medical Care (CMC), a Federally Qualified Health Center, currently has ten clinic locations serving six counties with plans for opening three new sites in 2019. In just 15 years, CMC has transformed into a full-scale healthcare powerhouse, delivering high-quality primary, dental, and mental healthcare services to the entire central Alabama region.
Breaking the mold and pushing rural healthcare into the 21st century, CMC is leveraging broadband technologies and its robust network infrastructure to increase access and deliver world-class healthcare to those who need it most.
Designing an Integrated Network
From the beginning, CMC knew it needed to build a sustainable, scalable, and robust wide area network (WAN) to help support the delivery of world-class, cutting-edge healthcare services to its community members. Initially, CMC had multiple satellite clinics siloed from its main network, but it suffered from almost daily Internet outages that would last upwards of 48 hours. According to CMC IT Manager David Culp, those outages had disastrous results on CMC’s ability to maintain operations, clinician workflow, and ultimately, their ability to treat patients.
“Since TeleQuality redesigned and upgraded our network, it’s been night and day. We don’t experience nearly the problems we used to, and everyone is very impressed with the infrastructure we have in place now,” says Culp.
Driven to find a better solution, CMC met with network engineers at TeleQuality Communications (TQ) to discuss their specific challenges, visions, and goals. Knowing CMC’s WAN had to support an expansive network of 50+ healthcare providers across ten locations, TQ designed a tailored, scalable network that would deliver site-wide redundant broadband connectivity and robust Internet access with high-capacity bandwidth. To solve their challenges, TQ delivered their fully managed TQ HealthNet solution, a full-scale, enterprise-level MPLS WAN and Internet access service, to seamlessly connect all their sites into one integrated network. CMC’s WAN now runs directly through the Centreville-based hub and connects out to all the organization’s satellite clinics.
“Our current WAN configuration with an enterprise-level fiber MPLS connection from our main site to our satellite clinics allows all of our sites to communicate with each other without a hitch,” says Culp.
Supporting Big Data and the Cloud
In today’s modern medical era, healthcare networks must be able to handle more data capacity than ever before. Uploading and transferring high-resolution medical image files across the network combined with running dozens of cloud-based software applications make data capacity and bandwidth a critical priority to prevent any lagging or downtime.
“Everything we run is cloud-based – our electronic health records (EHR), our phone system, our translation software, our ADP payroll software – everything is under the cloud,” says Culp. “That’s why it’s paramount our Internet is running smoothly and seamlessly at all times.”
Knowing CMC’s operations and patients rely on these advanced Internet-enabled services, TQ upgraded the organization’s bandwidth capacity to multi-Gig broadband speeds, allowing their network to easily manage the intense traffic CMC experiences on a daily basis.
“The speeds our network delivers are phenomenal, and our WAN is one of the pieces of our network that I don’t have to worry about anymore,” says Culp.
Round-the-Clock Monitoring and Support
CMC’s network is managed and backed by TQ’s 24x7x365 customer technical assistance center (CTAC), which allows their IT department to focus on other critical needs while gaining peace of mind. “Being able to call TeleQuality’s support center and know there’s an entire team of engineers working on a solution is extremely valuable,” says Culp. “I haven’t had an issue the CTAC couldn’t solve, and if it was an outside problem unrelated to their network they knew exactly who to call to get it fixed.”
“TeleQuality understands the mission-critical status of Internet access for healthcare.”
Culp also believes finding a partner that understands the particular networking needs of healthcare is important. “TeleQuality understands the mission-critical status of Internet access for healthcare. Our connection must be stable because we are dealing with patients and their lives.”
Understanding how broadband and technology can be used to increase access to care, CMC also provides broadband-enabled video conferencing visits, otherwise known as telemedicine, to their patients.
Telemedicine sessions, which allow patients to connect with healthcare providers anytime and anywhere, have been proven to save time, money, and increase access to quality care particularly for rural and remote populations.
Using TQ HealthNet, CMC can run all telemedicine sessions over the Internet without fear of bandwidth issues causing disruptions during appointments.
Leveraging Federal Funds to Make Significant Network Investments
Through the assistance and guidance of TQ’s funding specialists, CMC was able to apply for and receive federal funding for their telecom upgrades through the Universal Service Fund’s Rural Health Care program. This program provides funding to eligible healthcare providers for their monthly broadband and telecom costs. The specific program CMC qualified for ensures rural healthcare providers pay no more for connectivity services than their urban counterparts. "The opportunity to receive funding for our network upgrades and have access to funding specialists to help us navigate the complicated funding process has been absolutely invaluable to our organization,” shares Culp.
"The opportunity to receive funding for our network upgrades and have access to funding specialists to help us navigate the complicated funding process has been absolutely invaluable to our organization,” shares Culp.
A Community Partner
For a healthcare system like CMC, their commitment to the community goes beyond just traditional medicine.
In 2014, CMC established the Community Center to help serve the various non-medical components of community health. Thanks to local partnerships and generous donations, the Community Center further assists patients and community members experiencing financial hardships by offering household items, a food bank, clothing closet, counseling and mental health services, park and sidewalk development activities, a “backpack buddies” program for school-aged children, and much more.
Additionally, CMC supports The Studio, a locally owned, nonprofit arts and activity center that offers a variety of extracurricular fine arts classes for local children including dance, gymnastics, voice lessons, baton, piano, and more.
“I don’t know many non-profits that can do what we do, expand as quickly as we’re expanding, and deliver the level of satisfaction we’re experiencing,” says Culp. “I love that we’re helping impoverished areas and I’m proud to work for a company that is truly making a difference in our local communities.”