Anytime, anywhere

A radiologist gets a call at 11 p.m. on a snowy evening from a colleague who needs an urgent consultation. She gets dressed, clears the windshield of her car and makes the 30-minute drive to the hospital where the X-rays are filed.

Physicians at UPMC Health System might not have to do much of that anymore, thanks to a virtual private network, or VPN, the medical center installed last month with the help of Internet service provider Stargate. The radiologist could conceivably be 3,000 miles away and still huddle with her colleague, as long as she’s near a telephone line.

“With the new VPN, physicians and staff can securely access UPMC’s privileged online resources from their homes or offices,” says Dan Martin, manager of data communications and networking for UPMC.

The network won’t be limited to physicians at the system’s hospitals and 300 offices. Medical transcriptionists, for instance, will be able to download sound files to their computers from any location on the LAN, and certain employees will be able to connect to other applications as well.

The VPN rides on Stargate’s network and hardware, housed in its Greentree data center, and allows authorized users access through what Jon Rosenson, Stargate’s director of strategic initiatives, terms “strong encryption.” To limit access to authorized employees, users must supply a user name and password and have a special key fob that interfaces with their computer and supplies a code that is recognized by the network even as it changes every 30 seconds.

Rosenson says other Pittsburgh employers are viewing VPNs as a way to overcome geographic barriers for their workers. Ad agencies are using them to work with free-lance designers. And with the closure of the Fort Pitt Tunnels next year, says Rosenson, some companies are looking at VPNs as a way to keep their employees connected from remote locations. Rosenson says UPMC, with some 30,000 employees and multiple facilities, should encourage others to consider a VPN.

“UPMC is the largest employer in the region,” says Rosenson. “The fact that they’re using a VPN will make it real for a lot of companies.” How to reach: Stargate

Ray Marano is editor of
SBN Magazine.