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VPNs, Visibility Push Healthcare Network Management Services

Healthcare organizations require network management services to monitor network connections and protect data accessed remotely.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- As healthcare networks grow to keep up with the number of connected devices, managed network services are required to ensure all devices are authorized and transmitting the correct data to the correct place.

Markets and Markets predicts that the managed network services market has yet to reach its peak. The research firm expects the managed network services market to grow from $38.6 billion in 2016 to $59.38 billion by 2021.

Managed network services include managed internet access and network provisioning, virtual private networks (VPNs), network monitoring, and network security.

The Markets and Markets report states that the main driver behind the need for managed network services is the management of business processes, reduced operating cost, and network security.

When organizations are able to effectively manage their entire network, wasted resources are easier to identify allowing them to be eliminated. Network security is also more effective when all processes are being properly monitored.

Network management solutions allow IT administrators to prevent cybersecurity attacks from gaining access to the network as well as detecting malfunctioning equipment.

For example, management solutions will identify that an infusion pump is trying to send a web request out to the internet instead of just communicating with the management server.

Devices communicating abnormally can cause security problems for the network. Without a management solution, administrators may never detect small and potentially dangerous malfunctions.

Properly managing a network begins with network visibility and control. IT staff need to know how many devices are on the network, what they are accessing, and why. They also need to know what signals connected devices are sending and how many users are authorized to access the network remotely.

VPNs are important for healthcare organizations, especially for remote users accessing the network and telemedicine programs. Entities with telemedicine programs not only need to access electronic health records (EHRs) and protected health information (PHI), but they enter new information to a patient’s EHR from different remote areas.

VPNs are the extension of a private network that can be accessed through the public internet. This connection can be made within a physical location or remotely. Organizations using virtualization solutions will use VPNs to access virtual desktops.

Connection data is tagged with a header that allows it to use the internet to locate the private network and creates an encrypted tunnel that connects the VPN client and the intranet or VPN server. This tunnel securely wraps the connection separating it from the public internet, protecting the healthcare data.

Healthcare has seen one of the largest adoptions of mobile VPNs over the past several years. A study conducted late last year by P&S Market Research found that hackers are more likely to attack a network under the guise of fraud than theft. The growth of mobile and wireless devices has encouraged hackers to penetrate organizations from outside the network rather than within.

VPNs prevent hackers from hijacking a connection while the user is on a network application remotely. Organizations without VPNs are more susceptible to these types of attacks because the data exchanged between the device and the network is not protected by the encrypted tunnel.

AHIMA suggests mutual authentication wireless VPNs, internet protocol security, and secure sockets layer (SSL) when connecting to a public WLAN to conduct business. This becomes especially important as the VPN market continues to grow in the healthcare industry.

Managed network services allow IT administrators to see and control the entire network to utilize solutions such as VPNs to facilitate secure connections. As health IT infrastructures grow to include more remote and virtual users, network management becomes more vital.