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Examining HIT Infrastructure Critical to Advanced Technology Success

Building an HIT infrastructure foundation to support innovative medical technology is vital to improving patient care.

HIT infrastructure

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- The progression of advanced healthcare technology leaves organizations eager to adopt solutions and tools that will vastly improve clinician and patient experience. However, organizations can’t adopt these advanced and revolutionary technologies if their IHT infrastructure does not support it.

The adage “don’t send the train before the tracks are built” can be applied to the current health IT climate. Innovations in artificial intelligence, robotics, and hyperconvergence have evolved to assist clinicians in decision making processes as well as in the operating room, and have allowed patients to experience better care with fast, intelligent, and reliable technology.

Health IT infrastructure in most hospitals today is not built to support the advanced digital tools that are emerging in healthcare, according to a recent Accenture report.

“Current infrastructures are designed around a few basic assumptions: there is enough bandwidth to support any remote application, there is infinite storage available in the cloud and hardware will continue to have enough computing power,” report authors explained. “But the demand for immediate response times—especially in healthcare’s physical world—defies this approach.”

The strain advanced technology puts on bandwidth, storage, and compute is much too heavy for organizations to successfully support over a long period of time.

Bandwidth is one of the most challenging obstacles preventing healthcare organizations from fully embracing new technology. The introduction of AI and Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are constantly collecting and sharing data. This data is needed for AI and other computing systems that sort through and analyze data.

Currently, bandwidth has a hard limit and providers need to reassess their networks in order to accommodate this technology.  Simply adding access points to accommodate increase network traffic will not alleviate this problem.

Healthcare networks need to be proper planned and executed to handle the amount of traffic coming in. Different devices have different network requirements and when, smartphones, laptops, wearables, and other connected devices are added to the network, it’s inevitable that there will be issues.

Storage is also a challenge for health IT infrastructure. Many organizations treat the cloud as an unlimited resource for storing data and expanding storage infrastructure. While storing data in the public cloud is cheap, creating data is also cheap, according to the Accenture report. Just because the space is available and affordable in the cloud, doesn’t mean that the data there is valuable or worth keeping.

The attitude that cloud is limitless for data storage can lead to disorganization, and data that isn’t being deduplicated. This means that clinicians can accesses records that have not been updated and consult patients based on dated information.

The report also touches on the limitations of hardware. Hardware is getting more powerful, but there is currently a physical limit to how powerful on-premises machines can perform.

“The future demands an overhaul of existing infrastructures. To overcome the challenges, healthcare organizations can pursue three strategies: embed intelligent tools everywhere, balance the cloud versus the edge and leverage custom hardware,” said the report. “Reimagining enterprise infrastructure unleashes new opportunities for healthcare organizations willing to see ‘the edge’ as a strategic asset in delivering intelligent environments. Embedding a business into the surrounding world begins with an IT architecture transformation—building the capabilities to power intelligent actions everywhere.”

In order to fully embrace advanced technology to improve patient care and better support how clinicians treat patients, organizations have to start from the ground up by reexamining their IT infrastructure. Understanding future healthcare technology and what an organization is realistically capable of is critical to the success of advanced healthcare technology.

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