ATM backbone turns SSM Health Businesses computer system into fully distributed network

Pittsburgh 27 July 1998 Large health care institutions increasingly rely on powerful and efficient computer networking to meet the ever more strong demands for high qualitative patient care, accessible to every citizen at an affordable cost. SSM Health Care (SSMHC), being one of the biggest Catholic health care providers in the United States, has turned to the Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) technology, provided by FORE Systems, to replace the existing T-1 lines, which transmitted the administrative and medical data between six of its member hospitals in the St. Louis region, at a speed of 1.5 Mbps. SSM Health Businesses (SSMHB), an SSMHC division, is already making plans to extend the current services of the newly installed ATM network backbone, such as electronic file interchange (EFI), and both office and e-mail functions, to distance learning applications for remote training.

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Large health care institutions increasingly rely on powerful and efficient computer networking to meet the ever more strong demands for high qualitative patient care, accessible to every citizen at an affordable cost. SSM Health Care (SSMHC), being one of the biggest Catholic health care providers in the United States, has turned to the Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) technology, provided by FORE Systems, to replace the existing T-1 lines, which transmitted the administrative and medical data between six of its member hospitals in the St. Louis region, at a speed of 1.5 Mbps. SSM Health Businesses (SSMHB), an SSMHC division, is already making plans to extend the current services of the newly installed ATM network backbone, such as electronic file interchange (EFI), and both office and e-mail functions, to distance learning applications for remote training.

The six hospitals involved in the high performance networking configuration will largely benefit from the consolidation of over 20 high end servers into a centralized data centre. In the year to come, SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital will be interconnected with its satellite facilities to share ultrasound and other innovative diagnostic imaging applications. The SSM St. Mary's Health Center St. Louis, the St. Joseph's Health Center, the St. Joseph's Hospital West, the St. Joseph's Hospital Kirkwood, and the DePaul Health Center will enjoy clinical support from the Quinton radiology system, allowing physicians to digitize and transfer cardiac catherization images. The 3M Health Data Management (HDM) will facilitate mutual patient record exchange.

Other medical services include the Gelencare system, enabling Computed Tomography (CT-scans), a centralized tumour registration system, and a uniform physician credential system. The FORE network solution offers seamless transfer of voice, video, multimedia, and data traffic, interlinking the six care facilities through an ATM backbone, which runs over an OC-3 fibre optic cable, bridging distances of more than 45 kilometres and operating at a speed of 155 Mbps. Five of the hospitals as well as the SSM Information Centre are equipped with ForeRunner ASX-1000 ATM backbone switches, whereas the sixth hospital is supplied with a ForeRunner ASX-200BX ATM switch to guarantee an overall connectivity. The entire network displays a switching capacity of over 62 Gbps.

At each location, the PowerHub 7000 LAN switches link the hospital's internal Fibre Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) rings to the ATM backbone, which allows the 20 high end servers to interconnect and facilitates the routing to the system's Internet Protocol (IP) networks. The little patients at the Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital will certainly rejoice at what will possibly become one of the most popular applications of the ATM network, namely the Starbright World, a magical, interactive and three-dimensional playground for sick children throughout the country. This project has been launched by the Starbright Foundation and is being sponsored by some leading corporations and American celebrities.

According to the SMMHB staff, the ATM network backbone is bound to save a lot of money because the servers are being centralized, while the required software licences can be reduced, and both the maintenance and network management personnel limited. At the same time, the service towards the patient and the health care personnel will be improved through the growing availability of telemedicine and distance education programmes. In several departments, physicians will much quicker obtain the necessary test data, in order to promptly intervene with an appropriate care treatment. As a result, SMMHB seems ready for efficient 21st century health care delivery. We refer to our VMW December 1997 issue to find out more about the Starbright World initiative.


Leslie Versweyveld

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