The Healthcare IT Diet: Lose Wait, Gain Opportunities

BrandPost By Cisco Meraki
Oct 18, 2021
Health and Fitness SoftwareIT Leadership

Reap multiple rewards from today’s technology investments.

istock 1273886962
Credit: tonefotografia

Just as a good diet and exercise strengthens bodies for the short- and long-term, IT leaders know strategic investments in technology will help healthcare facilities enhance patient care and experience today, while setting the groundwork for optimized operations, reduced costs, and improved efficiencies tomorrow.

So many exciting advances on the horizon—breakthroughs like three-dimensional printed organs and AI-driven cancer treatments—will require high-speed networking technologies for communication and cybersecurity deployments to protect patient information.

These same network and security technologies deliver value today. In the face of change, constant challenges from staffing shortages and regulatory shifts, budget adjustments, and variations in community requirements, you can steer your organization towards opportunities for new or increased revenue, higher patient and employee satisfaction, plus enhanced agility and flexibility.

Looking up

Fruits and vegetables are the framework of good nutrition. Many technologists see cloud computing and the convergence of networking and network security functions as the groundwork infrastructure to resolve today’s challenges and build tomorrow’s opportunities.

The healthcare industry’s investment in cloud computing will reach more than $66.6 billion in 2030, compared with $26.5 billion in 2020. Drivers include healthcare’s continued and expanding adoption of technology throughout the industry, the growth of internet of medical things (IoMT) and internet of things (IoT), and more widespread availability of high-speed broadband, which helps patients and off-site medical professionals access health data remotely.

When Hospital Sisters Health System upgraded to cloud-based infrastructure, it prevented almost 700 hours of downtime across clinic locations thanks to the new technology’s automatic failover, which seamlessly switched to a backup ISP, said Benjamin Story, Network Engineer at HSHS. One result was improved relationships between medical professionals and patients because doctors and staff were no longer worried or stressed about near-constant service losses, he said.

Safety first

Healthcare leaders, especially within IT, are still worried about cybersecurity, however. With many companies across industries adopting a hybrid workforce, the steady uptick in attacks on healthcare, the high cost (both in health and financial), and the amount of personal information available in medical records, tackling security is probably high on your list of concerns—and it’s probably something that never seems to get enough funding or mindshare.

There are steps you can take, like adopting zero-trust and eliminating manual processes like software updates, which are error-prone and time-consuming, reported. Plus, history shows many attacks occur in unpatched applications or operating systems.

Wading in data

Information about everything from patients and medications to network performance and parking bottlenecks helps inform, guide, and improve—but only if the right people get the correct, actionable insight. That can be challenging, especially when it seems everything is being connected to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth® these days.

Global sales of wearable healthcare device units alone are predicted to reach almost $93.5 billion by 2030; that’s a compound annual growth rate of 22.2% between 2020-2030. An aging population, more people with chronic conditions, a desire to age-in-place, and new devices will propel the market—and your mandate to incorporate disparate devices into enterprise networks and the patient experience. Clinicians must analyze insight from these watches, rings, and other wearables without needing to see every single data point. Patients may wish to view each day’s highs and lows or achievements, goals, and medical details. Undoubtedly, you and your team will whip data into the shape users want.

You’ll have lots to work with. By 2022, there will be 4.8 zettabytes of IP traffic annually, triple the 2017 rate, Cisco predicts. Securing and analyzing data in all its forms, then sharing and storing it to advance patient and employee satisfaction and providers’ success, depends on automated analytics. Manual processes are inadequate for such high volumes.

The results speak for themselves: continuous, real-time monitoring of health conditions alert medical staff to anomalies, providing better care than a single point-in-time evaluation at a doctor’s office. Patients find diagnostics and monitoring at home more convenient and less stressful, with some seeing more accurate results.

Space savers

Healthcare offices can use the same cloud-based infrastructure for smart cameras and sensors to add intelligence to any room, hallway, or parking lot.

In hospitals or medical campuses, these devices can assist in guiding patients to appointments or visiting areas, and heatmaps help facilities manage staffing for stores, cafeterias, clinics, and other assets. They also help assure patients arrive on time for lab work and other appointments and improve the patient experience by connecting to medical wearables to deliver real-time monitoring and care during patient visits.

Sensors and wearables also support high-density IoMT, while connected medical devices and wearables enable workflow optimization and actionable insights like resource allocation. This also optimizes device usage and improves device maintenance plans. These technologies also empower staff to quickly locate important or costly tools, medical equipment, or colleagues, based on employee badges—and they help reduce shrinkage of costly gear (or maybe even someone’s lunch).

Sensors can send alerts when environmental anomalies occur, like temperature surges/drops or changes in air quality, or moisture thresholds. These alerts protect medications, equipment, and other high-value assets before elemental shifts irreparably damage them.

Within the network, you can receive alerts if Wi-Fi problems occur, preventing or reducing downtime, and minimizing the impact to the patient and employee experience.

Nutritious and delicious

Technology may once have been viewed as a side dish, a tool that did little to enhance the healthcare profession beyond administration and finance. Today, however, a healthcare organization without IT would be like a restaurant without pepper.

As healthcare organizations advance their digital transformations, you can leverage patient-centric technology investments for cost and time savings, and new innovations. With these cloud-based technologies, you can create safe spaces that protect, inform, and delight.

Start your healthcare IT journey today with Cisco Meraki.