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Collaborative Edge Computing Supports Health IT Advancement

Collaborative edge computing can improve interoperability by giving provider, payer, and pharmacy organizations better visibility through information sharing.

collaborative edge computing

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare organizations have a greater opportunity to digitally share collected data with other organizations for analytics and population health purposes. Using collaborative edge computing to share data can help organizations efficiently and securely share data with other providers.

Edge computing is a decentralized, cloud-based extension of an organization’s network. Instead of collecting data and transmitting it back to the datacenter to be processed, edge computing creates a small datacenter that connects cloud and end-user with data processing capability.

A clinician’s mobile device is the edge between the patient who is the data source and the cloud. A clinician treating a patient with a tablet will be able to enter patient data into the analytics platform at the edge where it is processed and displayed in near real-time.

Moving data processing to the edge of the network and using the cloud to process medical data gives organizations the opportunity to more easily share data with outside organizations. That data is already held in the cloud, so it doesn’t need to be moved from a centralized datacenter. However, many providers have yet to embrace the opportunity, according to a report published by the IEEE Internet of Things Journal.

“In many cases the data owned by stakeholders is rarely shared to each other due to privacy concerns and the formidable cost of data transportation,” said the report authors. “Thus, the chance of collaboration among multiple stake-holders is limited.”

Collaborative edge computing connects the edges of multiple healthcare organizations that are nearby or far away from each other. Edge networks don’t need to be uniform to communicate successfully.

The report indicates that connected health is one of the most promising applications of collaborative edge computing.

“The demand of geographically distributed data processing applications in healthcare requires data sharing and collaboration among enterprises in multiple domains,” said the report authors. “To attack this challenge, collaborative edge can fuse geographically distributed data by creating virtual shared data views.”

Data can be shared via a public interface that looks the same to all end-users no matter what networked organization they’re viewing the data from.

The report used the example of a flu outbreak to demonstrate how collaborative edge computing can benefit healthcare.

Patient EHRs are updated as patients enter the provider organization and are treated for the flu. The updated information can be summarized and shared among organizations that are part of the collaborative edge. The healthcare provider assumes that the treated patients leave the practice, go to the pharmacy, and get the medication.

If patients are readmitted to the hospital because they did not get their medication, there isn’t really a way the provider could know that. In this case the provider organizations would have to take responsibility for rehospitalization because they cannot prove that the patient didn’t get their medication.

Collaborative edge can give provider organizations much better visibility in these types of scenarios. The pharmacy that’s part of the collaborative edge can give the provider the patient’s purchasing record, so the organization isn’t held accountable for the patient’s readmittance. The pharmacy can also take the data from the hospital and see that a flu outbreak requires more medication.

“Most participants can benefit from collaborative edge in terms of reducing operational cost and improving profitability,” the report found. “However, some of them, like hospitals, could be a pure contributor to the healthcare community since they are the major information collector in this community.”

Embracing collaborative edge computing can help healthcare organizations visibility over patient care cycles. Sharing information with providers, pharmacies, and payer organizations can give organizations a clear big picture view of what’s going on and how to deal with it.
 

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