Centralize 300+ disparate networks with SD-WAN for manageability, agility, and HIPAA compliancy
Hundreds of homegrown field office networks were crippling a healthcare consortium's ability to execute its business promise to provide IT and compliance support. A lack of consistency and almost no security measures meant that the home office couldn't resolve network challenges or ensure security at field locations — exactly what they were bein
Major Health Care Facility Turns to Black Box for Secure, Turnkey Collaboration Solutions
This U.S. health care provider is a major academic medical center operating more than 20 hospitals and clinics across three states. For over a decade, the provider has enjoyed a successful and strategic partnership with Black Box for outsourced installation, support, and maintenance of their telephony and collaboration systems.
Keeping Employees Safe and Productive While Protecting Patient Data
With the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, this health care provider needed to protect as much of its workforce as possible from infection. Almost overnight, the organization had to move several thousand non-patient-facing personnel off site and outfit their home offices with the full capabilities they needed to do their jobs. An example is the radiology staff, who do not have direct contact with patients but needed the ability to read x-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans and provide their reports remotely.
Since one of the hazards of a remote workforce is increased exposure to cyber attacks, network security was a large concern. The customer needed to empower its remote workers while also ensuring maximum protection for the network and maintaining compliance with HIPAA and other regulations.
Secure, Fast, and Simple Remote Connectivity
Black Box worked with the customer to design a strategy by which employees would be able to take home and use their company desktop or laptop computers and VOIP phones. The Black Box team configured each device with Power over Ethernet (PoE) and rapid configuration and setup tools.
In addition, each remote employee was equipped with a Cisco Meraki MX67 or MX68 cloud managed network security appliance to enable auto VPN and secure SD-WAN connectivity — with up to 200 Mbps throughput — over the public cloud. In the customer's data center, Meraki MX450 with 10G SFP+ WAN interfaces provide high-speed connectivity protected with advanced security, together with cloud-based, centralized network management.
A Permanent Platform for a Growing Remote Workforce
Working with Black Box, this health care organization has realized two key business outcomes over the last year: empowered professionals who are able to perform their jobs securely and transparently from their home offices, and confirmation of a built-in technology infrastructure to support a growing number of remote workers on a permanent basis.
A Winning Partnership for Immediate and Long-Term Needs
As the health care provider's primary provider of telephony solutions, Black Box has been working with the customer for some time on a project to migrate all of its operations to new, Cisco-based collaboration systems. One aspect of that project has been testing and piloting a workable home office solution based on the Meraki systems that could not only give remote employees transparent access to their familiar applications, but enable them to do so in a HIPAA-compliant manner.
A More Profitable and Effective Operation
In addition to the business outcomes, the health care provider is realizing some clear operational benefits from its expanded remote workforce. With a main campus that is located in a dense urban area, the organization has few options for expanding its physical plant. By off-siting administrative personnel, as well as clinicians such as radiologists who have no direct patient contact, the organization can now repurpose its existing square footage for patient care — at a fraction of the cost of a building program. After realizing that many types of employees can work just as effectively from home as from an office on the main campus, the facility will be able to expand the numbers of patients that can be served across the entire operation.
The employees themselves are singing the praises of the Cisco technology, which has made them even more productive. The high-speed connectivity of the Meraki systems, for instance, enables the radiologists to download and access imaging files much faster than the on-campus network. Since they can read and report on a greater number of files in a given time period, they're able to serve more patients than before.
Remote Workers Signal the Healthcare Future
A year after the coronavirus pandemic forced this health care provider to drastrically accelerate and expand its remote collaboration workflows, the organization is realizing the many advantages of a workforce empowered to contribute efficiently and securely from home. As a result, many workers who were originally off-sited temporarily will stay remote on a permanent basis. At the same time, Black Box is working with the customer to expand the permanent at-home employee population. One example is the financial operations staff, of which 60 workers were in the initial group to move off site and another 90 have just been set up with the home office equipment.
Longer-term, the health care facility is looking to expand the remote framework even greater contribution and collaboration among all of its own facilities and those of its affiliates. One example are "trade missions" in which clinicians are able to travel to health care facilities in other countries to share treatment methodologies and promote new methods of patient care.g paid to do.
Acquiring new clients at a rate of three to five per week, the healthcare consortium urgently needed a single network architecture that could be centrally managed, quickly deployed, and, most importantly, that would be cost-efficient. After just a half dozen installations the consortium saw exactly these outcomes, that's when they turned to Black Box. The consortium asked Black Box engineers to provide a large-scale solution capable of servicing all their locations.
To ensure as little disruption as possible to users and the economy for the consortium, Black Box architects worked with the consortium's IT team to create a roll-out blueprint for easy-to-set-up network deployments. The recommended SD-WAN solution provided consistent, standardized HIPAA compliance and enabled the consortium's IT team to control network traffic across the enterprise.
Two years into the project, the advantages of the new SD-WAN continue to grow. Clients consistently benefit from network installation times that have been cut in half and ensure minimal on-site disruption. The consortium has profited from deployments that met tight budget constraints and, most importantly, enabled centralized network support and security – the consortium's main values to its clients. The new SD-WAN meets all HIPAA regulations mitigating security risks and the resulting federal fines that could financially cripple the company or its clients.
Centrally manage and secure 300+ nationally dispersed networks
Rapidly growing, the consortium successfully expanded its nationwide roster of client members. But success came with IT growing pains. Each client had its own IT network; some were professionally installed and supported, but most were not, including one practice's network that had been set up by a summer intern two years earlier. When the intern left, so did all the knowledge of the network configuration, infrastructure, and equipment.
If the network went down, panicked healthcare personnel would call the consortium's help desk. The calls left everyone frustrated: local users with a network problem, and remote IT personnel trying to resolve it. This was a growing problem and all too common, everyday situation. The consortium's IT staff had to figure out how to manage and support hundreds of locations each with disparate network configurations and little on-site expertise. The also meant the IT throughout the enterprise was riddled with security holes — an enormous risk to HIPAA compliance.
Centralize, simplify, and secure network technology, management, and support with SD-WAN
After success in solving security and downtime issues at several locations across the country, the healthcare consortium's IT team turned to Black Box for a large-scale solution. Experience deploying Cisco Meraki SDWAN solutions led Black Box's network architects to recommend it as a perfect fit for simplicity, consistency, and ease of management. The Black Box team worked with the consortium's IT team to set up one, centrally managed dashboard and enterprise-wide network policies. To reduce costs, the Black Box team also negotiated a bulk contract for the consortium. Black Box then leveraged its nationwide technical teams to install the network consistently, predictably, and even simultaneously at locations from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon.
Within weeks, the enterprise-wide network was up and running and the consortium's IT team could log onto the dashboard to monitor and manage the entire network. With centralized security management, the consortium no longer has to worry about HIPAA compliance for any or all of its member sites. The Cisco Meraki SD-WAN solution guarantees 99.999% uptime and provides the latest security features, including a nextgeneration firewall, content filtering, and advanced malware protection. More importantly, it gives the central IT team the ability to make updates and patches for any branch within minutes.
Almost two years later, the healthcare consortium is thriving and continues to add practice partners to its 300+ member network. Network management and support problems are now a thing of the past. The consortium's IT team takes care of adding new clients to the existing SD-WAN without having to hire additional network personnel. In the field, Black Box takes care of the on-site network installation ensuring consistency in configuration and performance.
Secure, simplified, scalable growth with centralized network management
The SD-WAN solution not only solved the healthcare consortium's operational headaches but also gave them the ability to grow at scale. With centralized network management, a consistent network installation blueprint, and a trusted partner with the geographical footprint to match their own, the healthcare consortium has a ready-made network onboarding process for any partner, anywhere in the U.S. The reliability and ease of management gained from the SD-WAN solution enables the consortium's IT team to be more productive and able to support more partners, ultimately generating a greater ROI.
With the comprehensive SD-WAN security platform, the IT team can make nearly instantaneous updates and patches at any sites. This feature alone protects the healthcare consortium's revenue from HIPAA-non-compliance fees and the untold harm to its reputation a hack would create. The single SD-WAN solution positively impacted the IT consortium operations (and bottom line) with immediate operational efficiency, larger client (and revenue) capacity, and mitigated risk.