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“A ‘good enough’ healthcare network is no longer good enough”

Matt Roberts, healthcare practice lead at Juniper Networks, on the power of AI-driven networks in healthcare.

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Healthcare networks

The network is at the heart of modern healthcare.

This has never been more obvious than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Increased in-patient admissions and remote consultations led to intense demands on the network.

With physical appointments limited by safety restrictions, virtual consultations surged, driving the adoption of applications such as telehealth and remote monitoring.

Additionally, healthcare organisations are leveraging their investments in the Internet of Things (IoT) to analyse both business and clinical processes.

They are providing automated remote consultations to patients in self-isolation through chatbots.

They are also exploring the opportunities for using advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to help diagnose conditions and treat patients.

Healthcare providers have quickly realised that, in many cases, their traditional legacy infrastructure simply cannot keep up with these new demands.

Their existing networks are not sufficiently strong nor reliable to support the new applications and technologies – a ‘good enough’ network is actually no longer good enough. Instead, healthcare providers understand that they need the support of high-performing IT networks to help them deliver their priorities and objectives safely and efficiently.

This is driving IT infrastructure modernisation across Europe. Fuelled by COVID-19, digitally enabled remote care will drive 70% growth in spending on connected health technologies by providers and life science companies by 2023.

But healthcare providers’ demands aren’t confined to bandwidth; they are also looking for flexibility, agility, security and cost management.

They want the ability to predict and adapt to different demand levels long-term. And while the infrastructure needs to support clinical workflows and the patient experience, it also needs to ensure compliance with data regulations and to keep patient information safe.

Experience-First Networks

Importantly, healthcare organisations understand that the experience of both patients and the clinical workforce is paramount. And perhaps for the first time, they consider the network to be a strategic component of the organisation, rather than just a source of cost efficiencies. They see the modern, experience-driven network as an enabler of positive customer outcomes, providing the predictability, security and scalability they demand.

“The impact of the pandemic has certainly reiterated the need for healthcare systems to move to what we call ‘value-based health’, where the purpose of the healthcare organisation is to maximise the value delivered to patients. Connectedness is integral to this. said IDC analyst Silvia Piai.

“The integration of care within the broader healthcare ecosystem and the personalisation of services to better adapt to patients’ needs are probably the most important business shifts that healthcare organisations need to pursue…delivering personalised care relies on frictionless information exchange to enable collaboration to support decision-making and to automate workflows.”

The adoption of hybrid and multicloud models are redefining the parameters of healthcare, underpinning the secure networking needed to support those environments. Providers are now looking to cloud-based networking for operational efficiency, workforce management and for patient data specific solutions, including EHR, medical imaging and medical information exchange.

New Levels of Insight

A smart, AI-based network provides a new level of insight around the user and device experience. It provides visibility into the infrastructure that was never previously possible. It can also proactively monitor devices and systems and troubleshoot any potential problems before they occur. For example, the IT department can set an alert if connectivity issues cause a service level expectation (SLE) to fall. Automation can also deal with time-intensive, repetitive manual processes, such as dealing with configuration issues.

Jan Yperman Hospital in Ypres, Belgium, offers patient-centred multidisciplinary specialist care with almost 50,000 admissions annually. The hospital must ensure information can be shared quickly and securely across the medical team, creating the need for scalability in this new, highly-distributed environment.

Central to this, its clinicians and staff rely on mobile devices to access their applications so it is vital to keep communication flowing. After experiencing unreliable WiFi connectivity, including portable cardiac monitors that had difficulty staying connected, the hospital turned to Juniper Mist’s AI engine.

Having greater visibility into what is happening on the network, and the ability to proactively provide recommendations or fixes, allows the hospital to spend less time troubleshooting issues. This results in better outcomes on both the clinical and IT side. Additionally, having a platform built for digital engagement makes patients feel more involved and engaged in their healthcare decisions, while also allowing the hospital to continue to improve the user experience.

Today’s reliance on the network isn’t just being driven by remote healthcare though; providers are also charged with ensuring their physical spaces are safe and secure to safeguard both employees and patients.

America’s largest integrated health care system, the US Department of Veterans Health Administration, National Simulation Training and Education Center has 170 hospitals, more than 1000 outpatient clinics and serves nine million enrolled veterans each year.

It is already leveraging AI to create a more personalised patient experience for those veterans. As an example, the Administration implemented indoor location services to provide precision care to patients in its community. As part of this, patients in its care village are given Bluetooth low energy (BLE) wristbands that trigger doors to opening and close, to allow them more freedom in their living area while still keeping them safe.

The Network as a Strategic Healthcare Asset

The network is a pillar of future healthcare, enabling intelligent and collaborative work models, richer patient experiences and engagement, plus greater efficiency and resilience through automation and security.

It is clear that the network must be considered as a strategic asset as improving the patient experience and engagement becomes a priority for European healthcare providers. An AI-driven, experience-first approach to networking ensures providers are fully prepared for continued digital acceleration, and excellent patient care, as well as ongoing innovation.

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