Telecom: Keeping Your Practice Connected

NetgainCloud Computing, Healthcare IT

There is a lot of buzz in the healthcare industry about the cloud – public or private, pros and cons, cost and ROI. What there isn’t a lot of discussion about is the telecom services that can make or break the success of a solution and user experience.

Simply put, telecom refers to the wires responsible for transmitting data from your exam room to the cloud. It is arguably the most important cloud design decision you’ll make for your practice. Your telecom network determines the speed at which your users access data, the security of your data and how much control your practice has over your connectivity.

In the traditional client/server computing method of the past, telecom was not as critical because resources were hosted on-site. The transition to cloud computing has put a new emphasis on telecom as the transfer of data across telecom wires is vital to availability.

So how do you choose the right telecom package? Let’s take a look at the options.

What are the options?

Like the cloud model, telecom offers a variety of connectivity options. The most prevalent two are public and private.

• Public telecom is accessible by anyone. The data is transmitted on the same network for everyone. Your home computer connecting to the Internet is an example of public telecom. The data you’re accessing is traveling the same wire as your neighbor’s. Public telecom options (“Internet-based”) often carry little or no service-level assurance, and so it’s common for clinical practices to consider two connections, each from a different carrier, to minimize risk while still keeping costs low.

Because the network requirements are generally less complex, public telecom can be the most effective and economic solution for small practices or practices with only one location.

Private telecom is a network built specifically for the needs of an organization and is accessible by only those who are authorized to use it – built specifically to the clinical sites within an organization. When you login to your computer at work, you may be accessing data via a private network that only other members of your organization are part of.

Practices with multiple, geographically dispersed locations are prime candidates for private telecom as network complexity increases with multiple locations.

How do I know if I need private telecom?

• Performance
The most common reason healthcare practices elect private telecom is because of the performance benefits. Latency is a measure of “delay” in a signal travelling from one point to another – there’s always some latency, and minimizing it maximizes some aspects of performance. Public telecom typically provides latency of 60-100 milliseconds, while private telecom boasts 20-50 milliseconds, or even better in local metro environments. In mission-critical applications like EHRs, this boost in performance can more than pay for the investment in private telecom.

• Security
HIPAA has put aggressive standards around securing patient data, both in transit and at rest. Private telecom allows only authorized users to access the network and transmit data across the wires. This authorization factor heightens the security level for practices and their patients. Though security used to be a barrier to cloud adoption in the healthcare industry, Gartner recently found that security concerns are becoming less of an issue. This is, in part, due to the capabilities of private telecom.

• Control
Private telecom allows practices the peace of mind to own their connection, unlike public telecom, where you’re at the mercy of the telecom provider. Cloud providers often design, manage and support private connections to optimize performance and user experience.

Telecom affects the user experience, the security of your data and the control your practice has over your connectivity. Ultimately, this one piece of cloud design can lead to the success or failure of your cloud strategy.

Work with your cloud provider to determine which telecom option is right for your practice. Configuring the proper connection route from your practice to your cloud provider is complex and should be thoroughly planned and designed by network professionals.