Digital Transformation & The Healthcare Industry

To build a digital foundation, healthcare companies are revisiting their IT infrastructure with a focus on cloud-based technologies and SDN.

Brendan Ziolo

September 8, 2015

4 Min Read
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Today, consumers are digitally connected and leveraging more technology than ever before.  As a result, companies are under pressure to bring innovations to market faster and meet ever-changing customer demands. These pressures are crossing virtually all industries and bring with it disruption and opportunity.

The possibilities that are opened by connected, more efficient and new digital business models are promising. The availability of digital data, the automation of processes, the interconnection of value chains and the creation of customer-focused interfaces are driving the transformation of businesses and redefining industries.

The healthcare industry is now facing this digital challenge and working to reconfigure its IT systems in order to control costs, increase access and improve quality of care. To meet the substantial expectations from consumers who are looking for digital healthcare services, providers are rethinking the services they offer, focusing on wellness and outcomes rather than service volumes consumed. For this shift to succeed, hospitals must adopt both technology and process improvements that focus on quality, efficiency and convenience.

Healthcare providers have started to leverage technology to move from analog to digital workflows within their operations. Electronic health records (EHRs) are widely used to help track patient health, check for potential harmful drug interactions and provide medical decision support. Mobile health enables physicians and patients to use mobile devices to record and communicate about their health on the go. Telemedicine eliminates distance barriers through the use of the network and information technologies to provide remote healthcare and improve access to medical services in rural communities.

Yet to become a fully digital organization, providers cannot simply adopt pieces of technology without a clear and integrated digital strategy across the entire organization and IT infrastructure. Today, most providers have information silos with different records or information fragmented across multiple systems. EHRs may be kept in one system and patient medication or imaging kept in other systems altogether. This forces clinicians to move from one system to another to try to pull together a whole picture of a patient. Not only does this digital workflow need to be integrated, it also needs to be compliant with extensive government regulations.

Two key building blocks for this digital foundation are cloud-based technologies and the network, which can be used to enable complete digital workflows across the healthcare organization and continuum of care at multiple locations.

Healthcare providers must capture, store and accurately analyze all information to generate insights that offer the best patient care. This can only be achieved by leveraging data analytics and a technology infrastructure that seamlessly integrates information generated from multiple inputs. Using cloud-based technologies, healthcare companies can build an agile and policy-based platform to meet regulatory requirements while having the ability to grow exponentially in step with their digital progression.

Through a cloud-based infrastructure, disparate technologies become part of a single platform that's connected through the network. In this environment, healthcare IT departments can know what devices, operating systems and applications are running on the network, how they are configured, who's using the devices and systems, what they are doing, and how data is moving across the environment. With visibility across all extended network activity as the foundation, IT departments can apply controls using analytics and automation for action and response across the entire system.

A critical factor in delivering this high-performing cloud environment is a virtualized network. The network ensures the performance and availability of applications and data and is a fundamental contributor to clinicians’ and patients’ quality of experience, without which the true potential of the cloud and a digital workflow will be compromised.

This is where software defined networking comes in. With SDN, networks are transformed into an open and programmable component of the larger cloud infrastructure. SDN simplifies the complexity of the network by abstracting its capabilities and deploying applications and data more quickly, while eliminating provisioning errors and increasing security and compliance through policy-based automation.

To effectively transform to a digital business model, the healthcare IT infrastructure must become agile and virtualized and the network must become as dynamic and consumable as the computing infrastructure. With a cloud-based architecture based on an intelligent virtualized network, healthcare providers are better equipped to meet the needs of the healthcare consumer with a digital workflow that still meets the compliance and security concerns of today and the future.

About the Author(s)

Brendan Ziolo

Head of Large Enterprise Strategy, Nokia

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