25 Feb TDS Helps Florida Hospitals Implement High-Speed VPN
Madison, Wis. – TDS Telecom, a Madison-based communications provider, recently helped a rural Florida hospital to upgrade its network. At the behest of the Florida state Legislature, the Florida State University medical school began conducting a survey to determine the communication needs of the state’s rural healthcare facilities. The researchers were impressed with what they saw at DasSee Community Health Systems, which operates three rural acute-care hospitals in the Florida panhandle.
“They had only covered about half the state at the time we talked, but they said we had the most advanced communication system of anyone they had interviewed so far,” said Dennis Peterson, DasSee chief information officer.
Peterson is quick to admit the researchers would not have been quite so impressed a year earlier. That would have been before TDS helped DasSee implement a site-to-site virtual private network (VPN) with local T1 connections to link three rural hospitals.
A frame relay network was in place when DasSee took over control of the hospitals in 2001, but it was inefficient. The organization was paying nearly $8,000 per month for the frame relay between the three hospitals, and that didn’t include any Internet access, only dial-up.
It was determined that a VPN solution could meet DasSee’s communication needs.
“Price was probably the No. 1 factor driving them to look for something else,” said TDS Data Specialist Lonn Reas. “The cost of the frame relay network was huge. The No. 2 consideration was that they had a limited IT staff to manage the network, so they were really looking for a solution in which the management could be outsourced.”
A server at the hospital in Quincy houses databases and applications that are shared among the three facilities. By establishing Internet access at each facility, TDS was able to create a VPN that uses the public Internet to connect all three sites, as well as all remote users.
Typically wide area networks are built using leased lines, which can become progressively more expensive as the number of branch offices, and the distance between them, increases. VPNs represent a way to avoid this cost without sacrificing the security associated with leased-line circuits.
“And the best part is, we cut our costs by almost $6,000 a month. In a rural hospital, cutting costs like that is a major deal,” Peterson said.
TDS monitors all circuits and hardware on the network through its network operations center. If there is an outage or a problem, TDS notifies DasSee within 15 minutes.
“I have been absolutely satisfied with the switchover from the frame relay. I’ve been in the computer industry since 1973, and I believe we have the most advanced communication system that I’ve been around,” Peterson said. “Rural hospitals, in general, do not have this kind of connectivity.”