SDN Blog

Health system depends on fast, secure, reliable connections

Posted on Wednesday, April 09, 2014 in Remote Network Monitoring , In The News

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Avera Health PrairieWhen physicians in Sioux Falls and other communities in Avera Health’s five-state region need to consult in real time to care for patients, a highly-reliable level of connectivity is a must.

SDN Communications of Sioux Falls supplies high-speed private lines for electronic communications – in addition to Internet connectivity – to much of Avera’s vast network.

The Sioux Falls-based health care system includes hospitals, clinics, residential care facilities and medical equipment outlets in more than 300 locations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa.

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Management and support services from Avera’s central office in Sioux Falls are provided to five regional centers:

  • Avera St. Luke's in Aberdeen
  • Avera Queen of Peace in Mitchell
  • Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls
  • Avera Sacred Heart in Yankton
  • Avera Marshall in Marshall, Minn

SDN plays “a significant and absolutely critical role in maintaining the connectivity between sites,” says Jim Burkett, vice president of technology services for Avera Health.

SDN also helps Avera securely store and protect electronic records of patient information.

Avera Health owns and operates a data center on SDN property that SDN helps oversee. In addition, Avera leases space in a data center that SDN owns to supplement its electronic storage capacity.

The two data centers, which are a few miles apart, are connected by super high-speed transmission lines so that data can be transferred from one center to the other, if the possibility of trouble arises at one location or the other.

Each of the data centers are protected with redundant services. But to protect its electronic information even further, Avera stores taped copies of its electronic information at a third location.

SDN services allow Avera Health to store all of its electronic medical records near its headquarters in Sioux Falls and provide authorized people with secure access to the information.

“That integration capability allows doctors and patients to see their records no matter where they are,” Burkett says.

Enhancing reliability

Avera also uses SDN’s Remote Network Monitoring Service to help make sure that the health system’s electronic lines of communication are operating all the time. SDN employees staff a Network Surveillance Center 24 hours a day, every day of the year, to keep watch on traffic patterns on screens to spot possible disruptions in the flow of clients’ data.

Although SDN also provides Avera with Internet connectivity, Avera depends heavily on private transmission pathways to move information within its system.

“It’s not just for security. It’s for reliability,” Burkett says. “We need connectivity all the time.”

Information on the Internet can be encrypted for security purposes, but service on a public pathway cannot be guaranteed because of the various entities involved in providing connections, he says.

Fast, reliable connectivity on dedicated lines allows doctors to remotely monitor patients in intensive care units, for example. It allows specialists in different locations to consult with each other and with patients. It allows pharmacists to review and approve drug-treatment
recommendations.

Avera’s high level of performance has been recognized nationally as well as regionally.

In 2013, Avera Health was honored by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine for being among “HeathCare’s Most Wired.”

In addition, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center in Sioux Falls has been recognized by Truven Health Analytics for five years in a row as one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals.

Within the last two years, Avera McKennan also was named by U.S. News and World Report to be the top hospital in South Dakota and rank among the best hospitals in the nation.

SDN connectivity and services have played a small, behind-the-scenes role in helping Avera Health deliver such top-notch services to its patients.

For more information about the products and services that SDN provides businesses, visit the SDN Communications website.