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The Future of Edge Healthcare Services and HIT Infrastructure

Edge healthcare services can aid the aging population, improve health monitors and devices, and assist telemedicine capabilities.

Edge healthcare services

Source: Thinkstock

By Bill Kleyman

- If I were to pick the most fun projects to work on, healthcare edge would be in my top three. The biggest reason this gets me so excited is that we’re bringing amazing services to remote locations. And we’re accomplishing this with better technologies, smarter management, and with a lot of cost efficiency.

For healthcare, edge services will be a delivery mechanism to reach more people, save more lives, and leverage technology to do great things.

That said, the edge will become a part of your healthcare business whether you’re planning around it or not. The most competitive and advanced healthcare organizations are already looking to edge to deliver even more services and healthcare offerings.

Gartner recently stated that many digital business projects create data that can be processed more efficiently when the computing power is close to the thing or person generating it. Edge computing solutions address this need for localized computing power.

IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders tasked with managing these solutions should understand the associated business value and risks. Remember, it’s not just content. The edge will absolutely be comprised of advanced devices like IoT and IIoT.

READ MORE: Edge Computing Essential for 2018 HIT Infrastructure

IDC recently estimated that indicate that approximately 43 percent of IoT data will be processed at the edge by 2020.

“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.”

I recently helped conduct the 2018 State of the Data Center Survey that I’ll be presenting at the keynote session at this year’s AFCOM Data Center World Global Conference.

In that report, we found out that many organizations are already actively deploying edge locations. Specifically, 30 percent stated that they have between six and 10 edge locations deployed already. Fifty-seven percent stated that they’ll have 21 to 40 potential edge locations within 36 months.

To that extent, here are some areas where edge services will be impacting healthcare:

READ MORE: Edge, Fog Computing Contribute to IoT, Data Analytics

An aging population will rely on the edge

A recent study from the US National Library of Medicine found that the requirement for self-health monitoring and preventive medicine is increasing due to the projected dramatic increase in the number of elderly people until 2020. Their study shows that developed technologies are truly able to reduce the overall costs for prevention and monitoring. Furthermore, they point out that this is possible by constantly monitoring health indicators in various areas, and in particular, wearable devices are considered to carry this task out. These wearable devices and mobile apps now have been integrated with telemedicine and telehealth efficiently, to structure the medical Internet of Things.

Here’s what they found: Wearables, with the help of improved technology have been developed greatly and are considered reliable tools for long-term health monitoring systems. These are applied in the observation of a large variety of health monitoring indicators in the environment, vital signs, and fitness.

New types of wearable devices aren’t just for young people or millennials. In fact, an aging population will be leveraging these tools to stay healthier and become much more proactive with their own healthcare. The important point to remember is that all of these devices will be generating data. And you simply can’t keep all of this information in one centralized location. So, the edge will allow organizations to distribute data efficiently and keep it closer to the user.

Health monitors and devices will all leverage edge technologies

READ MORE: Edge Computing Uses IoT Devices for Fast Health IT Analytics

Edge solutions can do a lot. As Gartner recently pointed out, the capabilities of edge computing solutions range from basic event filtering to complex-event processing or batch processing.

“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 Santhosh Rao, principal research analyst at Gartner. “Edge computing has enormous potential to enable digital initiatives supported by IoT.”

Finally, Gartner forecasted that more than 8 billion connected things were in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. Total spending on endpoints and services rose to almost $2 trillion in 2017.

According to Gartner, applications tailored to specific industry verticals (including manufacturing field devices, process sensors for electrical generating plants and real-time location devices for healthcare) will drive the use of connected things among businesses.

With that in mind, healthcare organizations need to look to edge services for a variety of healthcare functions. This can include the delivery of EMR systems, digital imaging, X-RAYs, and support for advanced telemedicine solutions. To support the edge, it’s critical to work with a good partner who can help you design around your specific use-cases. Remember, edge is just a concept, you’ll need to deploy the right technologies to support your requirements.

Edge will help eliminate the concept of distance when it comes to healthcare services

The entire idea of healthcare edge is to bring new types of services closer to the users. Telemedicine capabilities allow doctors sitting at major metropolitan hospitals to be as close as possible to the patients they’re treating in remote and rural locations. New types of health monitors can aggregate data and help you create better therapy plans. Similarly, you can bring specialized care via edge services to patients who would normally have to travel many miles to receive the care. The expansion of WAN and edge services will help bridge the distance gap being experienced by millions of people across the country. These solutions and services will help bring new levels of healthcare to so many people.

The edge doesn’t have to be a massive data center or even a cloud instance. It can be something small that helps you bring data and healthcare applications closer to the end-user.

As your healthcare business expands, think about your competitive advantages. How good is user experience? Are you supporting new healthcare initiatives? Are you intelligently distributing resources and content to users?

These are all considerations when you create your edge platform. Moving forward, you’ll see a decentralization of the data center as more edge nodes become powerful parts of the connected healthcare world.

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