This article will provide an overview of how technology is dramatically reshaping the healthcare industry and how the wide area network (WAN) can significantly affect innovation acceleration and customer satisfaction in this sector.
Like many other industries, the healthcare industry is also undergoing a digital transformation. And, despite being always considered “behind the times” in leveraging information technology, the delivery of healthcare services is becoming more and more modern and data-driven each day.
The evolution in data, mobile and cloud technologies is driving healthcare providers to shift from a provider-driven toward a patient-centric business model. Patients today have the same expectations of healthcare providers as they have of any retailer or any other product or service, and they want healthcare on their own schedule and even on-demand.
Currently, healthcare providers are under pressure to create higher value at lower costs, improve financial viability, comply with regulatory mandates and increase patient satisfaction. At the same time, they must also remain competitive among disruptive market entrants and increasingly this is accomplished through mergers, acquisitions and partnerships and/or collaborations with complementary providers. To address some of these business challenges, healthcare providers are turning to technology innovations such as telemedicine, virtual reality and artificial intelligence (VR/AR), big data, cloud computing and IoT.
Consequently, healthcare providers are pressed to pay special attention to their network infrastructure in order to support the investment in practical healthcare technology innovations that will transform the way healthcare is delivered and consumed.
The WAN becomes a Strategic Enabler for Healthcare Innovation
The WAN plays a pivotal role in enabling these new healthcare services based on digital innovations. The WAN connects ‘things’ (e.g. medical devices, monitoring devices, etc.), applications, clinics, providers and patients together. From moving Electronic Medical Records (EMR), and medical imaging across clinics to enabling clear voice or video calls between patients and doctors to enabling the real-time transmission of a patient’s vitals from first responders in the field, they all require a reliable high-performance WAN.
So what’s the challenge with today’s WAN infrastructure?
To put it simply, today’s WAN approaches force compromise and simply can’t keep pace with modern healthcare demands. Conventional router-centric WANs are limited by:
- High connectivity cost and limited bandwidth to enable the transmission of massive amounts of data from medical imaging, monitoring devices, and other sensors alike
- Limited flexibility and lack of automation to deploy new care centers online quickly or to efficiently operate existing infrastructure
- Unsecured and unreliable broadband connections to maintain compliance with regulatory mandates and the performance required for telemedicine
- Lack of visibility of the traffic generated across all medical devices, both within and outside the clinic walls to quickly troubleshoot network issues and gain insights
- Inability to support a cloud-first model without impacting application performance
Transforming Healthcare Services with a Business-driven SD-WAN
A business-driven SD-WAN edge platform delivers on the promise of patient-centric, technology-enabled, “smart” healthcare by:
- Ensuring continuous access and availability to healthcare cloud applications like EMR systems to improve healthcare
- Enabling fast onboarding of new clinics and automating manual operations with centralised orchestration
- Providing with the best telemedicine quality of experience to both patients and the medical staff by delivering reliable real-time voice and video communications and fast transmission of medical records and images, even over broadband
- Enhancing security with dynamic application routing based on centrally defined policies
- Providing IT with complete observability of the entire network from a single pane-of-glass to maintain a continuous delivery of healthcare services while lowering IT overhead and costs
- Enabling a smooth on-ramp into the cloud, delivering a predictable quality of experience for SaaS applications and IaaS services
Modern healthcare providers are realising tremendous business and operational benefits from their SD-WAN deployments. UK-based Nuffield Health’s SD-WAN solution was critical to improving network performance, securely supporting their cloud-first IT strategy and delivering an exceptional quality of experience at a lower overall cost. Their IT organisation successfully deployed an SD-WAN solution across approximately 300 sites in less than four months to power its Connected Health initiative that enables real-time tracking of each patient’s lifecycle.
Similarly, the swyMed DOT Telemedicine Backpack is powered by EdgeConnect to ensure uninterrupted voice and data communications, enabling first responders to communicate vital patient data from the field to awaiting doctors and medical staff.
Delivering the Best Patient-centric “Smart” Healthcare Experience
The WAN is core to today’s data intensive and distributed patient care. A business-driven SD-WAN solution is pivotal in addressing the WAN challenges and powering improvement in healthcare technologies, thereby bringing well-being to healthcare providers. It enables healthcare providers to create higher value at lower costs, gain competitive advantage and maintain regulatory compliance. Ultimately, delivering the best patient-centric “smart” healthcare experience.