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Innovative project showcases changing network needs in healthcare

By Donna Donnawitz
October 19, 2012
If you think about what IT systems at hospitals look like, there's a good chance the computers and systems that come to mind seem a bit outdated. Your presupposition would not be that far from accurate - at least it wouldn't have been wrong just a few years ago. During the past few years, federal healthcare reform efforts have led to major alterations in the healthcare industry, resulting in hospitals depending more on IT systems and not just on advanced medical technologies.

This is creating a situation in which healthcare technology leaders have to find a way to make specialized medical technology systems work alongside traditional IT solutions. What's more, they have to do this while dealing with large quantities of data, which pushes bandwidth requirements beyond what many networks can handle.

Healthcare networks shifting
With electronic health record systems becoming more prominent, there is a growing need to provide infrastructure for data sharing between various departments within a hospital, including laboratories. According to a recent Cabling Installation & Maintenance report, this need is particularly clear at the Translational Research Center in Philadelphia, where a University of Pennsylvania research center and hospital work together as two entities joined to function as one.

This project is demanding that the hospital and research center invest heavily in robust network resources that enable the two facilities to function as a single entity and readily share large quantities of information without network performance problems.

This project, to a great extent, reflects how hospitals in general have to focus on the network. For example, laboratory environments have to share images and data with patient care departments. This is further compounded when you consider how billing, emergency units and other parts of the hospital have to interact with each separate operational area and share data. In the past, all of this was done on paper and operations were limited in pace. With the rise of EHRs, data sharing is expected to be almost instantaneous, and the network has to be able to keep up.

Considering network media
So the question remains - what kind of cabling media should hospitals use? The need for rapid transmission of bandwidth-heavy data makes fiber seem ideal. But then we see the budget restrictions that hospitals have to deal with, especially after implementing new EHRs, and one thing is clear - most can't afford an all-fiber setup to connect branches. Instead, hospital CIOs need to develop a strategy to use copper where possible to control costs, while enabling fiber when necessary. Fiber to Ethernet media converters play a critical role in this process and can help hospitals get the most out of their networks.

Perle has an extensive range of Managed and Unmanaged Fiber Media Converters to extended copper-based Ethernet equipment over a fiber optic link, multimode to multimode and multimode to single mode fiber up to 160km.


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