Covenant Health bolsters patient services using 3Com enterprise network

Santa Clara 15 April 2003Medical care will never be the same to Covenant Health Care. Required to standardise on a new medical information system by 2003, Covenant needed an enterprise communications infrastructure to bolster its medical and administrative services, something it found quickly and affordably via a high-speed network from 3Com Corporation.


Today, using an array of 3Com Gigabit and Fast Ethernet switches at its five hospitals, 45 clinics, and 80 offices, eastern Tennessee's largest health care provider delivers a full range of 21st-century health services to better care for its patients.

"3Com lets us keep pace with the latest advances in medical technology", stated Art Jeffords, Covenant's network operations supervisor. "We have more than enough bandwidth to dispatch medical images, patient records, financial information and other critical data to the appropriate staff without delay. What's more, our medical staff access this data on demand: at patients' bedsides, in doctors' lounges and at twice as many desks as before."

Previously, Covenant's hospital local area networks (LANs) were based on earlier generation 3Com systems. These systems served the organisation well for several years, but were near capacity and could not support the new centralised medical management applications Covenant needed to standardise its operations. Moreover, the network only extended to a limited number of offices, forcing doctors and staff to spend precious time searching for networked PCs.

Following a series of demonstrations of leading vendors' equipment by its value-added reseller, Advantage Electronics of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Covenant chose 3Com to upgrade its three largest hospital LANs to Gigabit Ethernet speed and double the number of network connections at all five of its hospitals.

Using powerful new 3Com switches, Covenant's staff are afforded fast, convenient access to enterprise clinical and administrative applications from McKesson HBOC's medical management system. Medical personnel can quickly update patient records, confer with colleagues internally and via the Internet and speed large files throughout the system. Administrators easily schedule appointments, ensure medical supplies are fully stocked and manage billing and accounts payable. The hospital LANs even extend to patient rooms, lounges, offices and laboratories, ensuring that Covenant's 8000 employees have network access when and where they need it.

Covenant is also using the 3Com solution's powerful Layer 3 switching capabilities to create virtual LANs (VLAN). One VLAN restricts confidential treatment information to authorised departments, ensuring compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. Another VLAN ensures ample bandwidth for X-rays, MRIs, CAT scans, and other imaging applications in the radiology department.

Deployed by value-added reseller Advantage Electronics, Covenant's five hospital LANs are based on a wide array of 3Com switches operating over existing fiber and copper wire. At the three larger hospitals, 30 SuperStack 3 Switch 4900s connect at Gigabit speeds to three Switch 4007s to drive the networks up to 100 times faster than before. Covenant's two smaller hospital networks are based on Switch 4005s, which provide a Fast Ethernet core. In all locations, 3Com's stackable edge switches deliver switched 10/100 Mbps Ethernet links to more than 10.000 devices, from PCs to MRI machines.

"Our 3Com solution delivers exceptional performance and functionality for an unbeatable price", Art Jeffords noted. "With 3Com systems, we can provide our patients with the most advanced, accurate, timely health care available, using the latest technology and in ways we haven't yet imagined."

3Com is a tier-one provider of innovative, practical and high-value networking products for enterprises of all sizes and public sector organisations. 3Com is also an expert in providing Internet protocol (IP) service platforms and access infrastructure for network service providers. More news on 3Com is available in the VMW December 2002 article Austrian childhood cancer centre discovers 3Com's "Pay as You Grow" approach to network expansion.

Leslie Versweyveld

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