Wide Area Network Overview
The Indian Health Service (IHS) Wide Area Network extends across 35 states and connects over 400 federal, tribal and urban heath care facilities. It also provides network connectivity to a number of health care partners such as insurance providers, laboratory services and pharmacies.
The network enables many of the day-to-day activities at the IHS facilities by providing access to:
- Email, SharePoint and Internet and Intranet web sites
- Electronic health records during patient visits
- Health care partners such as laboratories for access to test results
The Wide Area Network also provides access to the Internet and the HHS network where applications such as UFMS and ITAS live.
Role of NOSC
The Network Operations and Support Center (NOSC) manages the Wide Area Network and provides the following services:
- Maintain a Help Desk service, staffed with specialists capable of resolving technical problems related to the IHS Wide Area Network. The Help Desk is staffed 7 days per week, 24 hours per day.
- Monitors the IHS Wide Area Network for faults and starts any needed repair processes with Telecommunication vendor.
- Manages security controls, such as firewalls, and works with customers to plan changes and support application that are currently blocked or limited.
- Changes or repairs router connectivity to the IHS Wide Area Network.
- Collects network traffic statistics to assess network readiness for new services and capacity planning.
- Develops and documents a set of best practices for the configuration of all network devices.
- Manages Tribal Access Lists (ACLs) on each router that secures an interconnection with a Tribal site, as per the applicable Interconnection Site Agreement (ISA).
- Provides network technical consulting and design assistance to support the development of Area IT department expansions and re-designs.
In the future, an increasing number of new health care programs will depend upon the connectivity provided by the Wide Area Network. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provides HHS with the authority to establish a number of new programs to improve health care quality and efficiency through the promotion of health information technology (HIT). This includes the effective use of electronic health records and establishing secure electronic health information exchange gateways between health care providers.
The implementation of these new programs will increase the dependency for IHS to have a secure and adaptable Wide Area Network to provide the required connectivity to all federal, tribal and urban facilities.