For many organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused operations to slow down or come to a halt. However, the opposite is true for the healthcare industry, where an influx of COVID-19 patients has strained the capacity of hospitals and other existing healthcare infrastructure.
One regional hospital system, serving over 1 million residents and multiple hospital locations, decided to move COVID-19 testing off-site. This enabled them to protect patients from infection and save hospital space for confirmed cases.
By deploying a “network in a box” from Fortinet, this hospital system was able to quickly scale its secure network to multiple temporary testing sites located in parking lots and school gymnasiums. The enterprise-level Fortinet security allowed medical personnel working at these locations to maintain compliance with the Health Information Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA).
The Need for a Flexible Solution
When deploying remote testing sites for COVID-19, the priority was on selecting sites with the capacity to meet demand. Patients needed to be able to maintain social distance while waiting for their test results. Additionally, the testing sites may need to be converted to field hospitals if cases exceeded the capacity of existing infrastructure. The healthcare provider required a flexible solution that could be deployed anywhere.
Since Fortinet solutions can operate using power over Ethernet (PoE), only a single power outlet or generator was needed to power the entire solution. The core components of the “network in a box” consist of a FortiGate next-generation firewall (NGFW), a FortiSwitch, and a third-party wireless access point, providing a secure connection to the home office. FortiExtender provides a backup connection to the enterprise network, enabling the system to connect via 4G/LTE cellular data if an Ethernet connection is unavailable.
Quick Deployment with Fortinet
Hospitals commonly maintain contingency plans for pandemics; however, in recent cases such as Ebola, the need to implement them has not arisen. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, this hospital system needed to deploy its remote testing sites as quickly as possible.
Since the organization had an existing relationship with Fortinet, they reached out to determine how quickly they could deploy a “network in a box” to multiple test centers. When the order suddenly shifted from a “possibility” to “send as soon as possible”, Fortinet was ready. As an order from a healthcare provider, it was given top priority, and was shipped as soon as the order was received.
The open application program interface (API) architecture of the Fortinet Security Fabric further smoothed the deployment process. The organization was accustomed to using third-party wireless access points and telephony products and wanted that familiarity during this crisis. Fortinet’s commitment to seamless integration with third-party products meant that the hospital system was able to easily deploy a solution that they were comfortable with.
Maintaining Compliance with HIPAA
While the ability to deploy rapidly to remote testing sites was a priority, the hospital system could not compromise on regulatory compliance. Information collected from patients anywhere—even at temporary testing locations—is covered under HIPAA, and healthcare providers’ responsibility to protect this information from exposure has not diminished during the crisis.
Deploying FortiGate NGFWs at the remote sites, and enabling secure VPN connectivity between them in the main office addresses the confidentiality requirement of HIPAA compliance. This ensures that patient data traveling over untrusted networks is not exposed to eavesdroppers.
The Fortinet Security Fabric as a whole, which enabled centralized visibility and management of the appliances at these remote sites, addressed the remainder of the healthcare providers’ compliance requirements. Fabric Management Center (FortiManager and FortiAnalyzer) solution deployed at headquarters enabled the team to manage and monitor the remote sites’ “networks in a box.”
Fortinet Supports Healthcare Security
Throughout this crisis, Fortinet has shown that it is committed to going “above and beyond” to ensure that healthcare professionals have the necessary tools to keep themselves and their patients secure during this crisis. Fortinet solutions have also enabled other industries to continue to operate during this challenging time by enabling them to rapidly transition to support a remote workforce at scale.
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