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Geisinger Connects to Statewide Research and Education Network

Jan 22, 2015 02:35PM ● Published by Erica Shames

Geisinger Health System has become the first heath care organization to be connected to PennREN, the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network, a public network exchange built and managed by the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER) to provide broadband connectivity, foster collaboration and promote innovative use of digital technologies for the benefit of Pennsylvanians.

KINBER is a non-profit coalition of Pennsylvania’s education, research, health care, economic development, libraries and public media providing expertise and technical leadership for innovation and access to a high performance research network enabling massive data sharing, cloud services and enhanced connectivity to the Internet,. KINBER’s membership includes Geisinger, Bucknell University, Penn State University, University of Pennsylvania and University of Pittsburgh, among others.

“Geisinger is a PennREN pioneer in the health care arena, and its connection to our high performance network will enable opportunities for innovation, such as transmission of big data for genomic research, telemedicine, video consultation, remote patient monitoring, and access to specialist care,” said KINBER Executive Director Wendy Huntoon.  “Healthcare providers can also use KINBER services to benefit from health information exchange or gain access to other services like disaster recovery and data centers, resulting in a more efficient and effective delivery of services,” she said.

In a test of the system in December, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh were able to send a 175GB file of de-identified genomic data over the KMEX (KINBER Member Exchange Service) connection to Geisinger. KINBER anticipates data transfer times will improve as the KINBER and Geisinger technical staffs perform end-to-end performance tuning on the link.

Using KMEX saved researchers the time and expense of having the data burned to a hard drive and then shipped to Geisinger, said Raghu Metpally, PhD, a bioinformatics scientist at Geisinger’s Sigfried and Janet Weis Center for Research. “The whole process went very smoothly without any data loss or damage,” he said.

“With GHS massively using Genomics in its research and clinics, a dedicated high speed data transfer system like KINBER makes very large data intensive collaborations easier, either in receiving the data from the service centers or sharing the data across collaborators who are spread to institutions like Penn State University and the University of Pittsburgh,” Dr. Metpally said.

“We feel that KINBER/ PennREN offers ‘uniquely reliable’ Internet connectivity,” said John Kravitz, vice president of information technology and associate chief information officer for Geisinger Health System.

“Geisinger wanted better connectivity for our researcher collaborators within the State of Pennsylvania: Bucknell University, University of Penn and the University of Pittsburgh to name a few,” Kravitz said.  “With the flexibility of the KINBER Network we have the capability to establish redundancy with virtual internet connections via a single physical connection.  This allows us to connect to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for research initiatives; if one connection fails we can failover to the other connection.  In the past we would have been connected solely thru an Internet point of presence in New York City with limited redundancy.”

He added that Geisinger is happy with the work accomplished thus far and looks to more opportunities to leverage the KMEX (KINBER) Network in the future.

Bob Murcek, director of network infrastructure at Geisinger, agreed. “The big benefit is that researchers won’t have to waste time arranging for a special connection; it’ll always be there when they need it,” he said.

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