French cancer research centre René Huguenin selected ATM network to digitize medical files

Paris 18 June 1999 The Centre René Huguenin is located in Saint Cloud in the western suburbs of Paris. The institution was established in 1959 with the mission to fight against cancer by means of preventive actions, diagnosis, treatment and medical supervision. It also encompasses clinical research, teaching, and public education. In 1996, the French 3Com partner ETDE Réseaux et Communications has installed an Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) backbone solution to enable the institution to pursue the full computerization of the patient files, combining both text and pictures. As a result, doctors have a rapid access to medical data whereas the paperwork has been substantially reduced. Patients also benefit from the new network since physicians take more time now for listening.

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The Centre René Huguenin is located in Saint Cloud in the western suburbs of Paris. The institution was established in 1959 with the mission to fight against cancer by means of preventive actions, diagnosis, treatment and medical supervision. It also encompasses clinical research, teaching, and public education. In 1996, the French 3Com partner ETDE Réseaux et Communications has installed an Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) backbone solution to enable the institution to pursue the full computerization of the patient files, combining both text and pictures. As a result, doctors have a rapid access to medical data whereas the paperwork has been substantially reduced. Patients also benefit from the new network since physicians take more time now for listening.

The cancer centre's first computing system was installed in 1962. Professor Gest, who was director at that time, was convinced that optimized information systems would speed up research and advance the fight against the disease. His farsightedness has served the centre well, since it currently disposes of an IBM ES-9000 mainframe, which allows the full management of patient files, medical resources, and appointments. However, a graphical aspect was missing from the computerized medical files, so that some data was screen-based but other information had to be retrieved from traditional physical files. This means that precious time was wasted in retrieving data, such as radiographs and doctors' letters.

At the end of 1995, the centre staff decided to pursue the computerization of the patient files so that, in the long run, the paper-based information could be dispensed with and all existing graphical outputs incorporated into the files. For documents like external mail and examination results, the centre is implementing a digitization system. In terms of radiography, René Huguenin is confronted with problems of data volume since a radiograph of the thorax requires up to 50 Megabytes of storage. The centre therefore has looked for a solution based upon a fast backbone, allowing to integrate the two existing Token Ring networks, and to create compatibility and scalability with developing technologies.

The centre René Huguenin selected the ATM technology, offered by ETDE Réseaux et Communications since it will become the standard for high bandwidth networks. In this way, a network could be constructed which is bound to last the centre for at least 10 years. The solution provided by the ETDE company, is based upon a 3Com CoreBuilder 7000 ATM switch, permitting the creation of a high-capacity 155 Mbps backbone network. The CoreBuilder 7000 switch offers direct connection with the centre's CD-ROM server. The existing IBM Token Ring environment is linked with the switch by an IBM 8229 bridge, thus extending the life of the historical investment in that area.

The fibre optic backbone now runs between two buildings with a SuperStack II Switch 2700 Ethernet/ATM switch in each building in order to connect the two networks to the backbone. Each switch has been connected in turn to a CoreBuilder 5000 chassis, providing 10 Mbps switched Ethernet segments in each of the buildings. If the need occurs to deliver ATM at 155 Mbps directly to the workstations or the future medical equipment, this CoreBuilder 5000 switch will be able to respond to this requirement by simply inserting ATM cards. CoreBuilder 5000 switches already have the necessary ATM modules which will be required to ensure that the bandwidth will be there as soon as the need is expressed.

The network was installed during the summer of 1996. Currently, there are 320 active Ethernet nodes throughout the buildings. In order to facilitate the management of the network, all the nodes have been connected back to the CoreBuilder 5000 switches. This allows for very rapid additions, moves and changes. Membership of workgroups can be changed as required without the need to make any physical changes whatsoever, since the architecture allows the creation of virtual local area networks (VLANs). Another advantage of the VLANs is that the data within individual workgroups is secure and if needed, access can be restricted to only authorized members of that workgroup. The Transcend Enterprise Manager for Windows network management software as a matter of fact enables the network administrator to manage the VLANs and the entire network from a single Windows NT terminal.


Leslie Versweyveld

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