- As the year winds down, one common theme has kept me busy in the healthcare world. Specifically, we’ve been working with a number of healthcare organizations to help them become more distributed with their IT capabilities. The goal isn’t just to improve scale and agility, it’s also to deliver advanced healthcare services to more people.
Let me give you an example. Over the summer, I attended the Value-Based Care Summit in Chicago where I had the chance to hear how Children’s Mercy – Kansas City – was able to work with kids in rural areas by providing professionals from remote locations.
The technology used allowed both the practitioner and the patient to have excellent experiences, as if the doctor was right there with them. I wrote a blog discussing how these new advanced technologies are making healthcare easier to deliver to remote locations, thereby impacting peoples’ lives and how they receive care. Honestly, this is the best use of technology: to positively change the way people leverage healthcare services.
This brings is to the main point – the distribution of the healthcare ecosystem. Already I’m seeing even more healthcare organizations take their environments to the cloud or closer to their end-users. And they’re doing this with a lot more confidence.
The recent 2016 HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey indicates that healthcare organizations are increasingly willing to trust the cloud with Protected Health Information (PHI). Approximately 36 percent of patient engagement tools are in the cloud and 5.3 percent of the organizations leverage cloud for compute cycles to analyze big data.
Beyond cloud computing solutions, we see the edge. When it comes to healthcare, edge computing serves as the decentralized extension of the campus networks, data center infrastructures, or the cloud.
“Organizations that have embarked on a digital business journey have realized that a more decentralized approach is required to address digital business infrastructure requirements,” says Santhosh Rao, principal research analyst at Gartner. “As the volume and velocity of data increases, so too does the inefficiency of streaming all this information to a cloud or data center for processing.”
As Gartner points out, its in these situations, there are benefits to decentralizing computing power, to placing it closer to the point where data is generated: in other words, to pursuing edge computing.
Here’s the important point: edge computing is defined not by the industry, but by your specific use-case. This means edge solutions can take the form of building management, IoT, data distribution, application delivery, complex-event processing, and even leveraging healthcare-related devices.
“A wearable health monitor is an example of a basic edge solution. It can locally analyze data like heart rate or sleep patterns and provide recommendations without a frequent need to connect to the cloud,” says Rao.
Here's an important final point to remember: according to Gartner, currently around 10 percent of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud. By 2022, Gartner predicts this figure will reach 50 percent. This means edge services will continue to grow. And based on current projects, healthcare will be a big user of the edge.
I have no doubt that there will be even more edge computing projects in the healthcare world. As more mergers and acquisitions happen and as more healthcare services are deliver to more locations, edge will play a key role to improve the healthcare business.
Edge will help deliver applications and services to remote areas of the country
We’ve been helping so many healthcare organizations open new offices, build new hospital IT networks, and embrace more cloud. We’ve also been helping these same healthcare businesses become a lot more distributed with edge solutions. This means deploying small, branch, data center locations, leveraging intelligent data center and colocation solutions, and deploying new types of infrastructures aimed and density and efficiency. Edge solutions allow you to rethink your very own delivery methodology. This can be a healthcare EMR application or some type of imaging service. Edge allows you to rethink your architecture, bring these services closer to your market, and leverage technologies which make doing so much simpler. This includes working with converged and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), new solutions around virtualization, and even leveraging software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions. All of these technologies can help you build your own edge architecture.
Work with good partners to help you define your own edge strategy
Building on the previous point, you absolutely don’t have to go on this journey alone. A good partner will help you identify your use-case, create an RIO strategy, and show you how to design the proper infrastructure for your edge requirements. Remember, the edge can be a combination of virtualization, cloud, security, network, and data center solutions. And, it can be any combination of these technologies. Network, infrastructure, and cloud partners can help you define your goals and then design the right kind of architecture for your healthcare environment.
The edge will bring numerous benefits to your healthcare business and IT operations
A big component of working with the edge is actually getting rid of legacy healthcare IT processes and technologies. This means deploying edge data centers which are a lot more efficient and can handle greater levels of density. We’ve been working on projects where SD-WAN helps healthcare organizations restructure their MPLS contracts while still bolstering their edge presence. Furthermore, solutions around HCI allow you to remove legacy data center gear and replace it with agile, dense, systems. Finally, virtualization helps optimize the delivery of core application based on the context of the user. Edge isn’t just another infrastructure bring data closer to the user. It’s an intelligent engine helping you optimize user experience and deliver rich content. A good edge infrastructure can help with space reduction, improve patient and user access, and improve overall resiliency as well as agility.
Edge isn’t here to replace cloud – it’s a compliment
This is an important point to consider. Cloud solutions are still great to help with various apps and services. However, cloud isn’t the final solution when it comes to offloading core applications. In fact, as mentioned earlier, the decentralization of these apps via cloud doesn’t always offer the best kind of experience for the user. This is why it’s critical to know when you should be using cloud or designing your own edge ecosystem. Most of the time, these solutions will complement each other to impact the entire healthcare organization.
Various types of edge services are emerging as more organizations understand that getting data closer to the user has a lot of benefits. Of course, this is especially true within healthcare. In 2018 and beyond, make sure that you’re exploring edge and WAN solutions which can benefits your organization. Remember, these types of solutions can help you reduce WAN costs, improve delivery services, and impacts peoples’ lives. Most of all, you make healthcare so much easier to consume by bringing it closer to the people that need it the most.