Afshin Attari, senior director of public sector and unified platforms at Exponential-e, explores why infrastructure and connectivity are key to delivering better healthcare outcomes
IT infrastructures used by healthcare organisations are simply not set up for the digital era, says Afshin Attari of Exponential-e
Healthcare provision is, and has always been, inherently complex by nature.
And this complexity has grown in recent years as the need for cohesion between the health service and local authorities has increased.
Today across England, many local authorities are now as responsible for the provision of health and social care within communities as the health service itself.
This presents a huge challenge when it comes to delivering consistent patient experiences.
Top-class healthcare provision relies not only on seamless access to patient information across different networks, but also on the flexibility, scalability, and security of these networks, and the applications that sit on top of them.
Right now, the IT infrastructures used by public sector and healthcare organisations simply aren’t set up for the digital era.
They’re comprised of myriad legacy systems, most of which are not integrated with one another, which makes access to, and the sharing of, data very difficult.
Embracing modern technology solutions like cloud and Software Defined Networking (SD-WAN) is essential to overcoming this challenge, although it isn’t always straightforward and can represent a daunting task for many internal IT teams.
Right now, the IT infrastructures used by public sector and healthcare organisations simply aren’t set up for the digital era
Fortunately, there are third parties with specific industry expertise that can help navigate these challenges and ensure consistency of experience throughout.
Public-sector organisations working with sensitive health information can no longer make do with any old infrastructure.
It must be agile and scalable to make it easy to store and analyse growing volumes of data, and inherently secure to appropriately protect the highly-sensitive information being dealt with.
The last 18 months have served as the perfect example of this.
In a very-short space of time, the NHS and other public-sector organisations have suddenly needed to access and analyse data on the COVID history and status of millions of individuals.
And cloud is perfectly positioned to help the sector handle this data deluge.
It has the capacity to revolutionise healthcare because it promises the constant availability of data; facilitates a decentralised, more-efficient approach to IT; and improves patient experiences by delivering the same applications and services as internal IT organisations more quickly, and at significantly-lower costs.
There is one caveat here, however: not all clouds are the same.
Public cloud, for instance, has been given a bad name in the past when it comes to security, but it is now common knowledge in the IT world that moving away from dedicated cloud environments, and into public cloud environments, promises increased security.
Public-sector organisations working with sensitive health information can no longer make do with any old infrastructure
This is especially true in the context of ransomware attacks which have exploited the NHS’s outdated systems, of which WannaCry is a famous example.
Consistency of healthcare isn’t just about the cloud, though.
How, for example, do you deliver resilient infrastructure and remote access to a GP or keyworker at home so they can access the data and information they need within that infrastructure?
If you have cloud, but your network is not sophisticated enough, then the reality is that it’s going to be tricky.
In fact, the availability of infrastructure often presents a huge barrier to healthcare organisations and local governments when it comes to sharing healthcare data, especially over the past year as many have had to conduct their work from home.
This is where software-defined networking is coming into play.
Solutions such as SD-WAN provide the ability to slice up network capacity and optimise it for critical applications, which is crucial in a healthcare context.
And they don’t just deliver assurance, either.
Public-sector organisations delivering healthcare also need available infrastructure to be compliant against the relevant standards.
And that typically means providing confirmation of network authenticity, security and resiliency, which SD-WAN delivers.
Because of this, we are seeing local governments asking for connectivity that is approved by the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN).
Solutions such as SD-WAN provide the ability to slice up network capacity and optimise it for critical applications, which is crucial in a healthcare context
Put simply, they want a secure network that can safely carry this increasing amount of health traffic.
But implementing such networks has become tricky as the workforce has become distributed, largely because many employees’ devices may not be sitting on a corporate WAN.
That’s why their employers are turning to tools such as Software Defined – Home Connectivity, because they create secure pathways to access cloud environments via reliable network connectivity.
There is a lot of complexity in delivering consistency of infrastructure and network across healthcare.
A software-based approach to infrastructure and networking can help, but the stakes are high – both in terms of ensuring patient confidentiality, and most importantly, delivering world-leading healthcare.
So, working with an expert partner with local expertise and insight to get it right is by far the best option.
They can take away the complexity of technology and deliver the sector-specific expertise needed to make sure patients receive the best-possible digital experience they can.
Ultimately, with their help in delivering the right supporting infrastructure, connectivity, and expertise, regardless of who is responsible for their treatment and where and how it is delivered, the sector can deliver good healthcare outcomes, and a more-connected society, in tandem.