Fiber cables to increase Lancaster General Health's bandwidth, reduce costs

A project to install fiber optic network cables in central Pennsylvania will boost the bandwidth of Lancaster General Health in Lancaster, Pa., while reducing its costs significantly.

VertitechIT, the company working with Lancaster General Health to install the cables, is assisting the hospital to set up a separate phone company to funnel the network's functions through. Once the cables are installed, the hospital will own the delivery system and will not have to pay a telecom company for more access to increase its bandwidth, according to Mike Feld, CEO of VertitechIT and interim CTO of Lancaster General Health. Between telecom company bill savings and less maintenance, the hospital could save between 20 and 30 percent annually, Mr. Feld said.

"Building a fiber plant gives [Lancaster General Health] essentially unlimited bandwidth," Mr. Feld said. "Now, they're simply activating more of the circuits that they already own."

Fiber optic cables work by sending pulses of light through optical fibers made of glass or plastic. They are more efficient than traditional cables, and more security and bandwidth are provided by the network's "dark fibers," which are unused optic cables.

The hospital in rural Pennsylvania is not the first to install this method. Baystate Health in Springfield, Mass., also uses this type of network but does not own the cables. Instead, they pay a subscription each month for use, Mr. Feld said. Because Lancaster General Health will own the fibers, the hospital can potentially offer use to other nearby facilities and charge a fee, bringing in additional revenue.

The project will require a total of 200 to 300 miles of cable and cost approximately $6 million to $8 million to complete. The project will likely take between one and two years to complete after the licensing process is complete, Mr. Feld said.

Medical software tends to be bandwidth hungry, so any efficient potential for increasing bandwidth is of interest to both hospitals and the federal government, according to Steve Shaw, vice president of VertitechIT. The government offers programs such as the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program, which provides grants to companies that expand broadband access in underserved and rural areas of the U.S. Rural hospitals can greatly benefit from improved access.

"The federal government is very interested in expanding bandwidth because of EHR requirements," Mr. Shaw said.

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