Maine Medical Center to deploy PACS and Point-of-Care applications through advanced Gigabit Ethernet technologies

Santa Clara 07 February 2000Maine Medical Center (MMC), the largest hospital in northern New England, has launched advanced Gigabit Ethernet e-Networks in four major sites to increase the effectiveness of its health care services. The $2 million 2500-user e-Networks are based respectively at the hospital's main Bramhall campus in downtown Portland, an oncology centre in nearby Scarborough, an information technology facility equally in Portland, and an ambulatory surgery and surgical care centre at their Brighton facility two miles away from the Bramhall campus. Each site is using a Gigabit Ethernet local area network (LAN) based on 3Com Corporation's next-generation CoreBuilder 9000 enterprise switch.


Using the e-Network, MMC health care staff now is able to rapidly access vital patient data and key medical applications. MMC's network is designed to deploy innovative telemedicine capabilities, enabling remotely located physicians and clinicians to use full-motion video to treat patients in hospital beds, doctors' offices, and even operating rooms. The telemedicine application will additionally provide MMC staff with access to the patients' charts, radiology images, and laboratory results. 3Com is also providing the hospital with comprehensive network management and support, as well as network interface cards (NICs).

Tracing its roots to 1874, MMC is a premier full-service health care facility, offering a complete range of inpatient services to residents of Portland and the surrounding region. The centre's main complex of more than a million square feet features a 606-bed hospital, Maine's only children's hospital, and a teaching programme with undergraduate and graduate medical education. MMC also houses northern New England's largest hospital-based biomedical research institute.

Powered by 3Com's systems, MMC's e-Network supports a complex suite of health care services, allowing caregivers to provide patients with both high-quality and cost-effective medical treatment. Chief among them are Eclipsys' suite of point-of-care applications, highlighted by the E7000 Permanent Patient Record, that is able to maintain nearly four years of detailed clinical encounter information.

The network additionally supports dozens of other clinical, financial, and administrative applications. These include Logicare, an emergency room tracking system which enables clinicians to provide expeditious care by informing them of a patient's status prior to hospital admission; Softlab, which delivers clinical, micro and anatomical pathology reports; Pyxis, an application that monitors dispensation of patient medication by authorised health care providers; and the MediPac patient accounting system.

The 3Com e-Network is further supporting MMC's deployment of Eclipsys' new product lines. Foremost among these is Sunrise Clinical Manager-Ambulatory Care, which provides doctors with patients' complete medical records and displays best medical practice guidelines and also patients' insurance plan rules. Sunrise Clinical Manager's Chart Manager additionally provides a comprehensive electronic medical record (EMR) which facilitates knowledge-based order entry of care, front-office functionality as well as integration with ancillary data exchange systems.

MMC additionally utilises the radiology applications provided by General Electric and Amicas, which generate CT scans, MRIs and other radiological images at the centre's Scarborough oncology and radiology campus. The intent of the 3Com network consists in allowing caregivers to access these images from anywhere among the organisation's remaining 28 sites, which include hospital floors, thus eliminating clinicians' need to travel between campuses for vital information.

The GE system is a real time network that allows doctors to view diagnostic-quality radiological images, and the Amicas archival application compresses, stores, and forwards these images to the clinicians. Unlike the GE system, the Amicas-produced images have to undergo complex compression and decompression processes such that physicians do not make diagnoses based on them alone. Instead, clinicians use the images to determine whether to transport a patient or advise on additional clinical needs.

MMC's new Gigabit Ethernet e-Networks further support vital administrative applications such as the Microsoft Office Suite. Users also depend on the Microsoft Explorer Web browser to access MMC's intranet, which enables employees to retrieve essential intradepartmental information and training information applications. "3Com has given us solutions which have greatly improved how we manage the centre's day-to-day operations", stated Craig Schmechel, the MMC director of Enterprise Network Services. "Using their Gigabit Ethernet technology, we're in a better position to continue our tradition of excellence in providing essential and effective medical care."

MMC's new networks emanated from the inability of its legacy Token Ring system to keep pace with rapidly evolving medical care technologies. The legacy network lacked the performance and control necessary to support cutting-edge health care services, such as telemedicine and the suite of Eclipsys applications. After considering solutions from many other network vendors, including Cabletron and Cisco, MMC chose a 3Com infrastructure.

The LAN at MMC's main facility at Bramhall is anchored by CoreBuilder 9000 switches. One resides in the data centre while the others are located throughout the hospital's two main buildings. These CoreBuilder 9000 switches provide fully redundant Gigabit Ethernet links from the backbone to the wiring closets. Closets with a large number of devices utilise 7-slot CoreBuilder 9000 switches whereas smaller closets utilise the SuperStack II 3900 switches. The switches provide switched 10/100 Mbps connections to desktops. The result is wire-speed performance from desktop to core. The medical centre's 50-odd servers are connected to the core at 100 Mbps via the CoreBuilder 9000 systems.

The CoreBuilder 9000 switches further provide Gigabit Ethernet connections to two CoreBuilder 3500 Layer 3 switches which replace a legacy Token Ring routed infrastructure. MMC also utilises a variety of 3Com FastEtherLink NICs to optimise users' links to the network. Additionally, MMC can rely on 3Com's Transcend Enterprise Manager for NT network management software and Traffix software to control, configure, and manage the network from a single management console. To further enhance the network's reliability, the medical centre relies on 3Com's comprehensive Guardian service programme that delivers 24 X 7 support, free software upgrades and advance hardware replacement.

With over 300 million customer connections worldwide, 3Com Corporation connects more people and organisations to information and to each other in more innovative, simple and reliable ways than any of the other networking companies. 3Com delivers e-Networking solutions via information access products and network systems to enterprises, small businesses, consumers, carriers and network service providers.

Leslie Versweyveld

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