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Top 5 Health IT Infrastructure Trends to Watch in 2018

Edge computing, hyper-convergence, public cloud, and the Internet of Things are several of the health IT infrastructure trends organizations need to keep an eye on for 2018.

health IT infrastructure

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- 2018 is poised to be an exciting and innovative year for health IT infrastructure as organizations seek to digitally expand their environments to increase workflows and improve patient care.

The major digital themes of 2017 will continue to grow in 2018. Trends in mobility and Internet of Things (IoT) devices will become more usable as organizations flesh out more thorough mobile strategies for clinicians to better engage with patients.

Organizations will also need to reexamine their network and storage infrastructures to accommodate for the influx of data being collected by connected medical devices and medical imaging devices.

In 2018, entities need to focus on refining the solutions they adopted in 2017 by looking for the most efficient and cost-effective means to deploy and support infrastructure tools while still being open to innovation.

Below, HITInfrastructure.com explores the five biggest IT infrastructure trends for 2018 and how they will affect IT decision-making.

READ MORE: Healthcare Blockchain, Cloud, Virtualization Top 2017 Stories

Growth of the Internet of Things for clinician efficiency and patient monitoring

Healthcare organizations are already embracing the IoT. Nearly 60 percent of healthcare organizations that have adopted IoT devices are experiencing cost benefits, visibility, and improved patient care, according to a recent Frost and Sullivan report.

“IoT is well-suited to meet the needs of the transforming healthcare industry, by supporting the transition from disjointed care to coordinated care and reactive to proactive care-delivery approaches, for example,” report authors stated.

It’s estimated that there’s approximately 4.5 billion medical IoT devices currently being used. It’s predicted that by 2020, 20 to 30 billion medical IoT devices will be connected.

The IoT impacts the future of patient monitoring because the devices provide additional information and monitors patients in real-time. Clinicians are able to interact with patients using the data collected by IoT devices, improving patient care.

READ MORE: Edge Computing Essential for 2018 HIT Infrastructure

Edge-computing will gain prominence, taking strain off centralized infrastructure

Edge-computing has emerged as a way to make real-time data actionable at the point of care.

At VMworld 2017, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger stated that the IoT is pushing enterprise technology back to the edge as physical meets digital. Technology needs to increase its surface area and embrace what processes can be done at the edge.

The IEEE finds that cloud computing is no longer an efficient enough way to process data produced on the edge of the network by IoT devices.

The IoT device is the edge between the data source, which is the patient, and the cloud. Analytics need to be performed on the edge of the network for real-time analytics to be fully realized.

READ MORE: Pros and Cons of PACS, VNAs for Medical Image Data Storage

The IEEE cited the change of connected devices from data consumers to producers as a driving factor behind edge computing. Users are now producing and consuming data on their smart devices. This paradigm shift means that more functionality is needed at the edge.

Growth of artificial intelligence requires supercomputers for support

Healthcare big data analytics saw significant growth in 2017 as a way for organizations to gather more data to make more informed decisions. Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the tools that will help entities actually make their data actionable.

However, AI isn’t very widespread yet because organizations need to develop a strategy on how to deploy such a cumbersome technology without straining the infrastructure or slowing down other infrastructure tools.

2018 will see organizations explore options for dealing with heavy AI workloads. Entities collecting patient data using IoT and other patient monitoring tools need servers with the computing power to handle that much data. Continuously adding on traditional servers will be costly and those servers do not have the computing power necessary to support AI tools and make patient data actionable.

On-premises supercomputers will be more common in 2018. However, on-premises deployments may not be realistic for many organizations.

Cloud-based supercomputers may also see growth in 2018. Cray and Microsoft already announced the availability of Cray supercomputing systems in Microsoft Azure datacenters that will be easier for organizations to manage because the organizations don’t need to keep track of on-premises hardware and maintenance. 

The elasticity of the public cloud will allow health IT infrastructure expansion

The more data and digital tools that are introduced into health IT infrastructure, the more space organizations will need to store and support them.

Entities are getting to the point where cloud is an inevitable part of their IT infrastructure. Organizations are running out of space for on-premises deployment and they can’t hire enough staff to maintain on-premises environments even if there is space. Private cloud can also be costly for organizations with large and complex files such as medical images.

The public cloud gives organizations the flexibility to expand and retract their IT infrastructure as needed to accommodate new tools and short and long-term projects.

In 2018, entities will be more trusting of the cloud as it continues to prove its worth in healthcare. The public cloud in particular won’t seem as threatening as vendors continue to accommodate healthcare regulations by being HIPAA compliant.

Virtualization and hyper-converged infrastructure will consolidate IT systems

Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) is a framework that combines storage, computing, and networking into a single system so organizations can reduce the complexity of their data centers through virtualization, software defined storage, and networking.

Hyper-convergence makes it easier for IT administrators to manage their key resources using virtual machines. HCI is also scalable and uses less physical resources to cut back on costs.

Similar to the reasoning behind the growth of the public cloud as a more affordable cloud option, HCI offers many similar advantages for on-premises deployments.

The more solutions organizations add to their health IT infrastructure, the more entities will be looking to downsize physical hardware without compromising functionality. 

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