Co-authored by Jeff Tan
Cisco and our partners have an inspiring track record of stepping up to a challenge.
Logicalis Australia’s Jamie Yoon brings us one such innovation with StarHealth, a leading health provider in in Victoria, Australia. StarHealth is setting the standard for rapid-response, community health care with Cisco technologies.
StarHealth has a lean IT team of four people, that supports a staff of 300. This IT team needed to strategically focus on efficiently running the business and responding quickly to the needs of the organization, instead of being buried with tactical IT tasks.
Historically, StarHealth ran only clinics in 11 fixed locations, requiring people to travel to these facilities to receive care. But given that StarHealth is a community-based organization, helping the most disadvantaged residents, StarHealth realized they needed to evolve their service delivery model. This included providing mobile pop-up clinics that could be placed directly within the communities where health services were most needed.
StarHealth’s IT team faced a difficult challenge–providing connectivity to these mobile sites. Internet connectivity into the existing fixed location facilities was delivered through a rigid, MPLS-based network from a single carrier, as shown in Figure 1. With this legacy WAN architecture, it took more than two months to connect one new site. Meanwhile, the requirement to connect a mobile pop-up clinic was just two days.
The legacy MPLS network presented additional challenges. For instance, there was a lack of visibility and reporting into the performance being provided by the MPLS-based network, making it impossible to track root causes for poor user experiences when running applications over the internet. In addition, StarHealth was locked into receiving connectivity from a single T1 carrier or smaller aggregator, leaving little ability to leverage multiple carriers to deliver optimal paths to the internet.
These challenges were increasingly becoming problematic, as StarHealth’s staff used applications and data delivered through public cloud platforms and SaaS providers. With the strategic direction to devote its limited resources on the company’s core competencies, StartHealth IT reached out to Logicalis for help.
Logicalis’ Align, Transform, Scale framework
To help meet StarHealth’s requirement to quickly setup secure connectivity for mobile pop-up clinics and provide reliable and responsive user experiences running applications over the internet, Logicalis applied its Align, Transform, Scale framework to the challenge:
- Step 1 Align provides a blueprint for StarHealth’s cloud transformation. Logicalis’ experts assess and align the company’s cloud readiness and security requirements against the business strategy and objectives. The output of this step was a proposed solution, leveraging Logicalis Australia’s extensive experience and best practices.
- Step 2 Transform implements the solution. Logicalis transformed StarHealth’s WAN architecture and established guardrails to allow for future innovation.
- Step 3 Scale delivers ongoing managed services. Logicalis continually monitors, supports, and innovates the solution at scale, while maintaining security and performance to deliver optimal user experiences.
Modernizing WAN architecture through Cisco Meraki SD-WAN
Logicalis recommended to StarHealth a one-stop-shop SD-WAN solution, combining Cisco Meraki™ Security and SD-WAN with high-speed NBN (National Broadband Network) Fibre–all fully monitored and managed by Logicalis Managed Services. Logicalis designed, project-managed, and delivered the solution end-to-end and now provides ongoing management of the solution.
In addition to playing the role of system integrator and managed service provider, Logicalis acts like a quasi-telco, taking the burden off StarHealth’s IT team to make connectivity decisions. This is especially important with pop-up clinics, as different network options may be available depending on the site location, such as cellular, 5G, and/or fixed connections.
Fortunately for StarHealth and the communities they serve, this SD-WAN-based solution was put in place prior to 2020 – before the pandemic hit.
And then there was the Covid-19 pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic brought additional need for mobile pop-up clinics. For instance, early in the pandemic a public housing unit in Melbourne was hit with a particularly bad outbreak. Within 30 minutes, StarHealth set up a mobile testing and rapid response pop-up clinic, providing testing of 3000 people per day.
In the legacy network model, this would have been impossible. But with the new SD-WAN model, all that was needed were a couple Meraki® devices and 4G connectivity, as Logicalis took care of everything needed to get the network up and running. The pop-up clinic stayed in place for over four months, also providing humanitarian care such as counseling services, community support and testing, as many of the residents of the public housing unit quarantined.
In another example, pop-up clinics were set up with 48 hours’ notice to support Australia’s vaccination program, again taking StarHealth medical services out to the communities where the care was needed. And all the while, the StarHealth IT team has stayed lean at four people, benefiting from Logicalis’ scaling capabilities.
Meraki SD-WAN makes a difference
Key to Logicalis’ ability to support StarHealth’s need to standup mobile pop-up clinics within a few days is the use of Cisco Meraki SD-WAN. The Meraki devices enable each site to have direct internet access, while also maintaining MPLS connectivity, as shown in Figure 2. From a performance perspective, SD-WAN chooses the most optimal path(s) available to the relevant SaaS and cloud providers. From a security perspective, firewalling is performed locally.
In addition, Meraki provides real-time visibility and analytics into the network traffic. Among other capabilities, this provides the teams at StarHealth and Logicalis insights into any degradations in user experience. In one example, application response time was lagging, and it was assumed the cause was delays in the network. However, Meraki analytics showed the issue was with the application itself.
Taking health services into the community
In achieving its vision of providing health and well-being for all, StarHealth understood early on it needed to digitally transform itself to become more responsible and agile to meet the needs of its communities. StarHealth IT also understood the value of outsourcing the modernization of its connectivity strategy to experts in the area: Logicalis Australia. In turn, Logicalis understood the best technology choice to make was Cisco Meraki SD-WAN.
But ultimately, the real beneficiaries of StarHealth IT’s foresight to proactively take steps to digitally transform itself are the people in the communities that StarHealth serves. They receive access to quality health services where they live, when they need it.
Learn more about the Cisco and Logicalis partnership!
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