Anyone who has stepped inside a healthcare facility recently cannot miss the extent that the care we receive has changed. We are accustomed now to receiving test results by SMS, being scanned by devices that have a higher than ever diagnostic capability, and expect reports to be available at our next GP or specialist visit.
Since COVID, you don’t even have to set foot in a surgery to notice the difference. The federal government has invested more than $16.5 billion1 in services including telehealth and pathology services and home medicine delivery since March 2020. Of course, all the new developments are heavily dependent on secure connectivity, and the adjustments have placed a strain on underlying technologies designed in rather simpler times.
As patients, we put our trust in our medical providers to give us the best advice. We expect our personal information to remain private. For any organisation, security should be a priority, but in healthcare, the stakes are especially high. Patients of a group of psychology practices in Finland2 found out the hard way that their most private details had been compromised, not from their provider but from blackmailers who had acquired their information on the dark web. In Australia, even before the challenges of remote services, the RACGP reports that the health sector remained the biggest reporter of cyber breaches, responsible for 22% of all reports in between July and December 2019.
The combination of working at the forefront of a global pandemic, while simultaneously reinventing service delivery and reassuring an anxious public, means that those working in healthcare IT have also been at full stretch. Now, though, as the initial onslaught has passed, and restrictions have eased, we are seeing most turn their attention to addressing the challenges of continuing these new services in the long term.
Just as new apps and devices are continually emerging in the sector, some infrastructure vendors are keeping pace, with the first of a new generation of networking technologies hitting the market just when it is needed. Remote working and new healthcare models meant that a large amount of health information was created and stored on edge devices over many locations. The previous generation of networks, designed before the impact of COVID, were found wanting. Access control of users switching between devices and accessing cloud-based apps were outside the control of organisations. The risk of data loss and breaches increased.
Even before the pandemic, the pressure was building on networks in health settings. From hospitals to small clinics, the opportunities for enhanced care and staff efficiencies promised by mobile and bedside devices meant demand rose for Wi-Fi networks. Complicating provision still further, many sought to improve patient experience by offering public Wi-Fi. Managing this was difficult, and administrators found more and more of their time was taken by maintaining an uneasy balance, with limited visibility of this fragmented environment.
First to hit the new generation networking trail is Aruba, whose previous offerings were already remarkable. Their Aruba ESP solution builds on that heritage with products designed for cloud and beyond. They see the edge as an opportunity where people, data and devices come together to make exciting healthcare developments into reality. Attempting to restrict the magic that happens at the edge simply isn’t an option in today’s world, so instead, they set out to facilitate secure, highly intelligent networking technology that enables an inevitable need for remote and mobile working.
The result gives a complete view of wired and wireless networks. As you’d expect from Aruba, the console in well designed for ease of use, and straightforward access control segmentation means administrators can set rules for individuals and groups, based on need. The big time-saver, though, is the way ESP uses AI to gather and analyse data, so that it can predict and fix potential problems before they occur. After all, nobody wants critical health information to be delayed or, worse, lost altogether, and now we are in a connected healthcare era, network problems can have a significant impact on patient outcomes.
That same intelligence constantly assesses data to identify patterns in behaviour, so that it can alert administrators if a user or device represents risk. The automation tools give administrators the option of setting rules for how the system handles these potential risks, protecting data and systems from unwelcome activity.
However healthcare organisations have reinvented their services for the digital era, patient enthusiasm for a more flexible, connected approach is set to stay. Similarly, clinicians and support staff have become accustomed to working from home or on-the-go, and to creating and interacting with customer data from the bedside or anywhere else. The IT staff supporting this revolution will undoubtedly face plenty of challenges as they forge a new path – but managing and securing the network is one area set to get a lot less stressful.
How well can your network handle the new healthcare delivery model? Our experienced team members continuously work to improve the healthcare technology landscape, speak to Perfekt’s network experts to find out more.