By Sonia Arista
During the COVID-19 pandemic, testing is essential to monitoring and controlling the spread of the virus. This is especially true in metropolitan areas, where the population density makes efforts such as social distancing more difficult.
One large metropolitan healthcare system, with over 200 hospitals and ambulatory care sites, determined that additional remote sites were necessary to allow COVID-19 testing to scale to meet demand. By partnering with Fortinet, this healthcare system was able to rapidly acquire and deploy the equipment necessary to create multiple “secure offices in a box” for remote testing sites.
In a metropolitan setting, population density is high and public transport is the norm. Additional remote sites enable testing to scale to meet the needs of the population and may enable patients to limit potential exposure to the virus by removing the need to travel on public transport to reach hospital locations.
In order to be effective, these remote COVID-19 testing sites require reliable connectivity to the headquarters network. Since these remote sites must be set up in large spaces, like parking lots or public parks, the healthcare system required a solution capable of providing connectivity via 4G/LTE cellular networks.
These cellular network connections will be carrying confidential patient data including personally identifiable information (PII) and COVID-19 test data. This data is protected under the Security Rule of the Health Information Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA), and remote testing sites must have security controls implemented in accordance with the regulation.
The hospital system had an existing relationship with Fortinet and knew that the Fortinet Security Fabric could provide everything that the hospitals needed to deploy and secure their remote testing sites. This included FortiGate next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) for security and virtual private network (VPN) connectivity, FortiSwitch secure access switches and third-party wireless access points for network connectivity, and FortiExtender 4G wide area network (WAN) extenders to allow connectivity to the cellular network. The integrated Security Fabric solution offered a significant advantage, in that it removed the need to coordinate with multiple vendors, and reduced the risk of delaying deployment.
Fortinet also went above and beyond to ensure that the hospital system received its order as quickly as possible. Instead of waiting for a purchase order (PO), without hesitation or an official contract in place, Fortinet shipped the gear immediately, ensuring that the hospital system could deploy it to testing sites as quickly as possible.
Because the remote sites were selected for their size and not their location in the cellular network, connectivity strength was variable. To maintain consistent performance of its critical applications at the remote sites, the hospital system needed a way to automatically optimize the utilization of the WAN bandwidth available at each location.
Since every FortiGate NGFW contains a built-in software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) appliance, this need was easily addressed. The Fortinet Secure SD-WAN solution is configured to ensure that bandwidth allocation and traffic shaping are performed based upon an application’s requirements. This ensures that critical and latency-sensitive applications are prioritized when network bandwidth is limited.
COVID-19 has sorely tested the resiliency of healthcare systems, as well as that of their IT networks. When secure, reliable connectivity needs to be deployed rapidly, an office-in-a-box solution based on the Fortinet Security Fabric gives first responders—and their corporate IT management—peace of mind.