Radiology Company Improves Patient Privacy and Outcomes Through Optimal Network Performance
The U.S. based radiology company described here is a small and highly dedicated team of radiologists and technical staﬀ providing medical imaging services for local area hospitals. The group has a diverse collection of state-of-the-art equipment including nuclear medicine devices such as MRI, PET and SPECT scanners as well as photoacoustic and thermal imaging devices.
Patients are also scanned at their local hospital locations and after processing and initial physician evaluations are completed, the resulting digital images are often sent using an MPLS-VPN network carried over Ethernet to other local hospitals for additional physician analysis and diagnosis.
According to the company’s IT Manager, the network itself isn’t very complicated, but it faces challenges a typical enterprise network would never see. Besides stringent government requirements for patient privacy, network speed and reliability take on a new meaning when delays or failures can sometimes affect a patient’s chances for survival. To add to the challenge, nearly 90% of the network’s traffic consists of very large file transfers between hospitals and even to a physician’s home office.
WAN appliances didn’t help. One would assume that dedicated Ethernet links would ensure high speed and full control of available bandwidth. Yet performance related issues did persist. Using WAN optimization appliances seemed to be an obvious solution based on industry performance claims attributed to conventional networks. However, these devices rely primarily on compression and de-duplication to achieve good results. The company’s images were already highly compressed and because the transmissions were never repeated, the WAN appliances had nothing to optimize, essentially providing a near zero gain in performance despite the high cost of installing appliances at every remote location.
There were also some unknown issues with network performance that the team could not resolve with the WAN optimizers. They needed the ability to see what was actually happening inside their network devices—not unlike the detailed scans they capture daily of the human body. Through his connections in the local IT community, the IT manager discovered LiveAction (now known as LiveNX*). He was intrigued with its rich visualizations, real-time situational awareness, and the ability to configure Cisco routers on-the-fly, so he obtained a trial version for his laptop. Within a few minutes after installation, LiveAction generated a topology view of the network showing live flows from beginning to end, across multiple devices and interfaces. Clicking on different network elements revealed successively deeper and richer levels of information. For the first time he could literally see what was happening on and inside his network. And what he saw was surprising—almost disturbing.