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Network Provides a Vital Link to Quality Care

Perham Health depends on reliable connectivity to treat patients

Without network connectivity, healthcare would look a lot different at Perham Health.

There’d be no live feed from the local emergency room to the regional stroke center, allowing the trauma surgeon and specialist to view, assess and treat the same patient from different locations in real time. They’d be without diagnostic equipment allowing them to hear the same lung sounds and heartbeat, and to collaborate on the next steps in this critical-care scenario, one where every second matters.

Without network connectivity, there wouldn’t be instant access to electronic medical records, where from one screen, a doctor reads a full list of past treatments, current medications and patient history—a single place from which to form a more thorough care plan, get a faster result or make a more informed recommendation.

But with network connectivity, all this does happen at Perham Health, and it’s ensuring that the facility continues to deliver technologically advanced, high quality care to patients.

“All of that is because of reliable network connections, otherwise, it wouldn’t happen in rural areas,” says Jim Rieber, Director of Information Systems and Facility Management at Perham Health.

This is the second blog in a two-part series exploring connectivity in healthcare. The first part looked at how high-capacity network services are integral to the success of medical imaging technology.

Electronic medical records have streamlined care at Perham Health, making the process of treating patients more efficient and coordinated. With access to its system from any computer, providers have up to date and comprehensive information about patients, and it’s available at all times. A fast, reliable network keeps these systems operational.

“It’s essential,” Rieber says. “If we can’t access your records when you walk in the door or in the ER, you may have medical history that’s very pertinent to know—what drugs you can have, what treatment you can receive or can’t receive.

“Without that direct access all the time, it makes it a higher risk in how you can treat somebody, and it limits what you can just openly do without a lot of other tests.”

Perham Health Overview

About the network
Perham Health’s network includes Metro Ethernet service provided by Arvig, which links the Perham campus with its regional clinics in New York Mills and Ottertail and connects the facility to its out-of-state data centers.  Sanford’s offsite data centers include locations in Fargo, N.D., Sioux Falls, S.D., and cities in California and Utah.

A Metro Ethernet or Metro E service is a virtual private network ideal for high-bandwidth applications and data transport over long distances. The service provides simple, secure and resilient connectivity between two or more locations and can be used in conjunction with other site to site connectivity options such as SD-WAN or site to site VPN connections.

“Within our system—along with the main campus here and the (Perham Living) nursing home—which has fiber—we have a remote office to our EMS section, we have an off-site home care division, we have two additional offsite clinics, and those are all connected to us through Metro E circuits that we have through Arvig,” Rieber says.

Perham Health relies on off-site data centers for storage of its large data applications, including medical images and electronic medical records. Reliable connectivity is key to these applications functioning.

“All of our electronic medical records today are housed at offsite data centers,” Rieber says. “We have an internal data center we use for small servers and local applications, but the core of our computer system functionality goes to offsite data centers. We rely very heavily on the external network connections that come to us, as well as our internal network.”

Network interruptions or connection problems affect every digitally dependent process at the facility, from the records system to connected medical technologies and devices.

“If we don’t have good, reliable connections, it puts a severe limitation on the functionality we have,” he says. “You have to have redundancy plans and backups in place. We download files every night that have essential elements of data that we use.”

Hands Holding Heart with Stethoscope
Medical Monitor Heart Rate Screen

Managing medical records
Creating and managing electronic medical records is time-intensive on the front end. All data has to be input, formatted and properly filed, but the effort is worth the convenience, which is passed on to patients, Rieber says.

“Before, you’d sit with a four-inch thick medical record having to page through it. It’s more work to enter the information, keep it archived and keep it managed, but all the data is at your fingertips,” he adds.

Perham Health’s network supports a minimum of 75 to 100 users to as many as 300 to 400 users at peak times.

The network handles a large volume of traffic. Traffic consists of large file transfers, accessing patient records, uploading medical images, scheduling appointments and even filing prescriptions. Systems are deeply integrated, too. Each time a test in the lab is completed, data is transferred to offsite storage, input and uploaded to the patient’s medical record.

Another component is the Wi-Fi network, one that continues to grow as more patients and guests connect with mobile devices.

“As healthcare evolves, just for efficiency, we’re going to become more dependent on data exchange and data use. Networks are going to continue to grow,” Rieber says. “It’s going to exponentially expand.”

Facility-wide, Rieber says the goal for the network is 99.98 percent uptime.

“If we don’t have good bandwidth and a reliable circuit, we hear it pretty fast,” he says. “We’re so dependent upon good, quality reliable service.”

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