Single network ATM backbone to put Health First on the road to telemedicine

Pittsburgh 12 October 1998 Since a few months, health care delivery is travelling via high speed asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) networking in Brevard County, Florida. Health First, a not-for-profit health care organization which was founded in 1995, has selected FORE Systems to replace the outdated local area network (LAN) with a new wide area network (WAN) based on a strong ATM backbone solution. Headquartered in Melbourne, Health First is now able to propagate its original concept of a seamless, integrated health care system of physicians, hospitals, health plans and insurance products in a streamlined fashion to all of its facilities. One single network backbone is transmitting all the medical information between the various locations of the health care organization. Health First already dreams a future bright with video conferencing and distance learning, telemedicine, security monitoring, and surveillance.

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Since a few months, health care delivery is travelling via high speed asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) networking in Brevard County, Florida. Health First, a not-for-profit health care organization which was founded in 1995, has selected FORE Systems to replace the outdated local area network (LAN) with a new wide area network (WAN) based on a strong ATM backbone solution. Headquartered in Melbourne, Health First is now able to propagate its original concept of a seamless, integrated health care system of physicians, hospitals, health plans and insurance products in a streamlined fashion to all of its facilities. One single network backbone is transmitting all the medical information between the various locations of the health care organization. Health First already dreams a future bright with video conferencing and distance learning, telemedicine, security monitoring, and surveillance.

Health First comprises more than 70 remote facilities of different size and kind, including Cape Canaveral Hospital, Holmes Regional Medical Center, Palm Bay Community Hospital, and a broad range of affiliates. These consist of fitness and diagnostic centres, a women and children's resource centre, medical and paediatric rehabilitation facilities, a nursing home, home care and hospice, and an assisted living and Alzheimer's care community. In addition, Health First hosts a network of physician clinics, specialized in obstetrics and gynaecology, infertility, internal medicine, infectious diseases, and occupational medicine. Apart from all this, the Holmes Regional Medical Center has set up the Health Outreach Prevention and Education (H.O.P.E.) initiative, in order to create a healthier community.

Only a highly resilient network infrastructure as installed by FORE, is able to support all the critical applications required by an organization of that extent. Indeed, a lot of contradictory needs have to be reconciled, since Health First, like everywhere else in the States and in Europe, is trying to guarantee the highest quality of care for its patients while reducing the costs at the same time. On top of this, the medical data from the various health environments has to be standardized whereas the familiar atmosphere of the local community hospital should be safeguarded by all means. To answer this purpose, the ATM network solution had to be of superior reliability and scalability to process the huge amount of information with as less downtime or performance degradation as possible during the network's migration.

FORE is a renowned supplier of innovative multi-service networking ATM solutions. The Health First implementation consists of the ForeRunner ASX-1000 ATM backbone switch, completed with PowerHub 7000 and PowerHub 80000 multi-layer LAN backbone switches, and multiple ES-3810 switches, which serve to transmit data between the various health care facilities. The system includes a range of shared SONET Rings to cover an area of 1400 square miles. In addition, data and voice traffic is supported through both LAN Emulation (LANE) 1.0 and Circuit Emulation respectively. Health First has signed several contracts with multiple service providers to establish the necessary communications throughout Brevard County.

Via the consolidation of voice traffic on the data network, Health First can already save an average of $120.000 per year. In turn, the patients get the feeling to correspond with their local community hospital, since they are enjoying a genuine personalized treatment. For the benefit of the doctors, a new service has been launched, referred to as the Point-of-Care Clinical Information System, allowing the physician to gain access to information which is vital to the life and health of a patient. Moreover, a medical record system will be installed on the network as a repository for the caregiver at no matter what location in the continuum of care he or the patient are finding themselves. One same ATM backbone serves to transfer all of the data, be it clinical, financial, insurance or radiology information.

The FORE solution supports all existing large bandwidth requirements while holding out the future prospect of telemedicine applications. Read more on the FORE ATM backbone implementation for hospital environments in other VMW stories dedicated to the subject: ATM turns SSM Health Businesses into fully distributed network; Health care ATM network introduces telemedicine to the Middle East; Asynchronous Transfer Mode, a revolutionary tool for health care networking.


Leslie Versweyveld

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