By Nancy Green
The use of mobile technology by the healthcare industry is on the rise. Recent research published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association finds that the use of these new technologies can greatly improve patient care. It can also improve collaboration between caregivers, payers and clinicians which can increase the quality of care.
A mobile, device-empowered, patient consumer has now opened the door for new care and treatment models that can be delivered virtually (video, text) by an equally remote and technology-enabled clinical provider. Mobility solutions can improve collaboration between care teams which helps to reduce medical errors through real-time clinical decision-making,
Mobility has been a strong influencer in the industry, both from an internal perspective (e.g. clinicians wanting to use their own latest technologies), to patients and members who want to use their technology to interact now with their healthcare providers.
However, as mobile technology continues to evolve and become a more integral part of patient care, there is a need for healthcare providers to become more innovative and to be more agile, increase their speed, security and the convenience of their offerings in order to support this shift.
Innovation at the Edge Starts with Innovation at the Core
Many people think innovation is about a new product, gadget or application. Customers like to see and hold innovation in their hands. But some of the most meaningful innovation taking place in the industry today—innovation that has the greatest potential to transform enterprise operations—is in spaces people cannot see. A great deal of transformative innovation is happening at the system, network, and platform level. In many ways the real magic is taking place on the inside, behind the machine, tablet, or technology we’re holding in our hands (or wearing on our arms).
It’s the kind of innovation that enables complex systems and machines to talk to each other, exchange critical information, produce seamless user experiences, and transform data into actionable analytics. That’s where the “wow factor” really is because it’s where the most measurable impact to cost, risk, and productivity really occurs. It’s about the potential of that innovation to engage the customer (not just wow them), drive real business growth, and manage and mitigate risk to your business.
Healthcare Technology is Rapidly Evolving
We’ve come a long way from paper records and physical prescriptions as today’s changing healthcare landscape places an emphasis on improving the quality of and increasing the access to patient care. The shift of patients and healthcare insurance members being able to receive care from virtually anywhere (as happens with banking and shopping) has drastically impacted the healthcare delivery system from all corners, including the payers. This challenges an entire system that was built on the patients coming INTO a facility to receive care to now treating them in an entirely different way. The increased use of mobile and video technologies has expanded the possibilities, but security and quality of care are continued issues from the clinical viewpoint.
New mobile solutions are also enabling patients and healthcare providers to share information in real-time, to better manage patient-directed care plans for issues such as chronic diseases. Effectively sharing data between clinician and patient can help improve patient care. Sharing of patient biometric data including weight, temperature, blood glucose levels, blood pressure, activity and other important statistics through mobile technology to a secure cloud gives the care team important information to better engage with their patient in their health. When patients can easily share their vitals with their healthcare providers, they are also more aware of their health and everyone benefits.
Leveraging a High-Powered Network to Help Improve Patient Care
Enhancing care, improving efficiency and managing costs requires better connections between people, devices and information. But that’s just the start. In order for this new age of digital healthcare to be successful, ready access to fast connectivity and mobile applications is essential. To fully achieve enterprise goals you need to capitalize on the data behind those connections. To support better mobile solutions for patients, hospitals and healthcare providers are turning to software-defined networking (SDN) and cloud-based technologies, which can help deliver a streamlined network experience for clinicians, patients, members and customers. Software-based architectures also allow for flexible, agile and fast networks, which can ultimately bolster cloud-based and mobile services and provide a more seamless user experience, especially in high-volume places like hospitals.
Through coordinated acceleration of digital technology, from network transformation and management to application delivery, healthcare organizations will be able to support their goals for patient, clinical and member engagement and comprehensive collaborative care. The ability to rapidly deploy applications and services that mobilize point-of-care will enable clinical teams to:
- Support collaboration goals across their organization (e.g. telehealth/remote care objectives, coordinate care, streamlined internal operations)
- Accelerate tracking and monitoring assets for at-home care programs and utilize the analytical data to help improve care, and the patient experience as well as providing operational excellence.
- Deliver the right tools, the right information and analytics, at the right time, to any device to support decision-making by clinical and operations workforce teams in the field.
- Improve patient care and member engagement experience.
- Deliver access for healthcare employees and share on-demand and time-critical information faster than ever before.
- Support the updating of networks and improving software updates, reducing the need for problematic hardware upgrades, and allows for the support of state-of-the-art applications.
Protecting Patient Data through Network Transformation
With all the challenges going on across the industry, digital transformation, not only at the point of care, but throughout the care continuum (i.e. the entire 360 view of your health – wellness to acute care to palliative care), organizations are challenged to create a cohesive digital engagement strategy. They have to first transform their internal operations to be able to offer transformational services to their patients and members and even customers externally. With the recent surge in high-tech healthcare, providers and hospitals have the daunting task of balancing quick access to data with protecting huge amounts of personal and medical data. Maintaining the security of devices and the information on them is crucial for healthcare professionals.
One hospital highlighted in Verizon’s 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) saw ransomware spread to countless computers, causing the organization to declare an internal emergency. To help prevent occurrences such as this, network automation and orchestration gained via SDN can deliver supplementary data and enable IT executives to perform security analytics in near real-time, identifying and helping thwart cyberattacks.
The importance of this becomes obvious when considering how Verizon’s 2017 DBIR revealed that 76% of all security incidents in the healthcare sector involved miscellaneous errors, privilege misuses or theft and loss, which continue to rise due to the mobility trends happening across the industry. In addition, across all industries, the DBIR found that 25% of all data breaches remain undiscovered by the victim for weeks or even months. These data breaches can cause significant legal and financial repercussions to hospitals and healthcare providers. Therefore, putting robust security measures in place helps to protect patient information and valuable data at the network level, and flexible architecture allows for hospitals and healthcare providers to quickly respond to the latest malware threats.
As healthcare continues to experience digitalization, healthcare providers and hospitals should not hesitate to innovate at the network core to see how this can improve the innovation at the edge, where patient care resides. This will prepare those organizations for the current wave of mobile health technology, as well as the developments that will be available in the future. With the right connectivity strategy, healthcare providers can deliver the adaptive enterprise, mitigate risk and personalize the clinician and patient experiences.
Nancy Green is Global Practice Lead – Healthcare & Life Sciences for Verizon Enterprise Solutions. For more information, visit verizonenterprise.com. Also, connect with Nancy Green on Twitter @vz_nancymgreen.