Nicole Hill, Global Healthcare Sector Director at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, has a goal, to make everyone and everything connect. Here, she explains how improved connectivity can optimise care pathways, arguing that a scalable and secure network is the prime enabler of smooth digital transformation initiatives in the healthcare sector.
Healthcare providers are not immune from the rise in patient expectations when it comes to technology. Patients now have access to a wide range of medical information online and are accustomed to digital services and connectivity. The challenge for many healthcare providers today is to meet these digital service expectations while using enhanced connectivity to promote better health outcomes.
The answer lies in using technology to develop an optimised care pathway, one that reaches right across the healthcare ecosystem for a continuum of care. This means connecting with patients outside hospital or clinic boundaries through fast-response contact centres, automated patient reminders to cut down missed appointments, video diagnoses and remote monitoring or health tracking.
Connecting staff and devices to the Internet of Healthcare Things
User devices such as workstations on wheels, tablets and smartphones, and clinical devices such as mobile image capture, infusion pumps and location tags all rely on being mobile and connected to the network.
With the right applications and tools, nurses can monitor wards and patient events 24/7. Simplified bedside voice and text communications or integrated notification and alarm systems can send information straight to caregivers’ workstations or mobile devices meaning round-the-clock care, at the desk or on the move.
Clinicians can also access EMRs at the bedside or connect and collaborate with colleagues without having to return to their desks.
Keep IT simple
From a user perspective, IT needs to be intuitive or you risk alienating some of your patients and staff. This means simple but secure internet access on the front-end where the needs of patients and staff are met. But behind the scenes IT needs to be tightly controlled and delivered without a disruptive impact on critical network services, making sure authorised users can always access the resources they need.
Network security is a priority - developments in containerisation
Connected healthcare devices need to be secured, but expanding separate networks to support all these new devices will be a managerial and financial nightmare. Moving these onto a single IP-based network offers maintenance and management benefits, as long as it is deployed in a secure way. One of the core principles behind this is network segmentation, or IoT containerisation.
This is a method of creating virtual environments on a single network infrastructure where each virtual IoT ‘container’ can act as its own network, where users can only interact or manage devices within that virtual environment. For example, the security team’s ‘container’ might include the IP cameras and alarm systems and only be accessed and configured by authorised users from that team. As well as creating an optimised environment to run connected healthcare devices, any compromised device won’t spread the threat to other containers, limiting a breach in a worst-case scenario.
Giving healthcare a check-up
Healthcare providers have the opportunity to put the right tools in the hands of caregivers and deploy a network infrastructure capable of supporting them. To build optimised care pathways and provide patients with an optimised healthcare journey requires an approach to digital transformation which provides mobility, connectivity and security every step of the way.