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Is it time for Healthcare to Take Advantage of Distributed Architecture?

Don Lisco
August 22, 2013

Healthcare Providers’ IT Decisions are mostly driven by the need to Reduce Operating Expense (OpEx) and Increase Consumer Reach. Financial Services firms have typically achieved these benchmarks by deploying a Distribution Architecture that leverages the connection rich environment of carrier hotels. For decades the financial Industry has benefited from this architecture; isn’t it time healthcare providers adopt the same model and reap similar benefits?

There are strong business pressures for providers to shift computing platforms to more capital efficient models like cloud, outsourcing, SaaS and other scalable solutions. Along with the downward pressure on OpEx is the high rate of growth driven by acquisition and organic growth into community based healthcare. Hospitals are acquiring local practices, partnering with specialty care providers or adding ambulatory care facilities to capture the market share necessary to feed the pipeline of patients fueling their health system.

Efficiency is the key to yielding profit. A critical element of efficiency is the adoption of common computing platforms and leveraging common network resources. Other efficiencies exist around training, staff flexibility, support, improved diagnoses, meaningful use, outcomes and purchasing power, but without connectivity none of these advances are possible.

The common connectivity model is one of multiple carriers with numerous point-to-point connections where redundancy is achieved with additional carriers and connections Each connection requires more hardware, more management, more monitoring, more service and more support. Unsurprisingly, overhead grows on pace with the demand for bandwidth.

Traditional network architecture is also typically afflicted with the following symptoms: costly last mile circuits, little carrier choice, lack of scalability, impeded application efficiency due to changing bandwidth needs, consumption of larger footprints, long costly deployment cycles and expensive physical architecture. A Distribution Center based architecture, however, can cure most of these problems.

A Distribution Center Architecture leverages carrier-hotel facilities by bringing nodes of co-located network and content sources together into a single hardened resilient facility where providers can connect to partners and carriers via a physical cross connection. By connecting directly, hospitals will improve latency, dynamically accessing high bandwidth and resulting in secure and resilient connections that are more cost effective. Cost is driven down by a marketplace of service providers that creates a highly competitive environment keeping price down and selection high. Access is cheaper because last mile costs are minimized as providers, which already have a presence within the facility, and their circuits are available almost immediately. Redundancy is inherent in the design of the datacenter networks this architecture leverages.

The bottom-line is this: there are numerous operational and budgetary reasons for adopting a Distribution Center Model but the most telling is the comparison of today’s healthcare landscape with large central facilities, back-office processing centers, regional service centers and community based retail establishments. This model is interchangeable with the model financial services firms have used for years and the one healthcare providers are building today. The perennial key to the finance industry’s operating success is the distribution center model; healthcare should look to leverage the same architecture to achieve similar performance.

About the author: Don Lisco leads the Healthcare Service and Solutions for Telx, a national provider of interconnection rich datacenters. He holds an MBA in the Global Management of Information Technology from American University and has been part of the Healthcare IT landscape for almost 15 years which includes co-authoring multiple patents for Structured Decision Making in the Cloud.

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