Using technology to alleviate pressure on our healthcare system

By Neville Vincent

November 14, 2018

As we rely more on technology in healthcare, it is important for healthcare businesses to build a robust IT environment to match their digital ambitions.

Australia has always prided itself on having a premier healthcare system, but an ageing population, increases in chronic disease and myriad other factors are putting increased pressure on our hospitals and healthcare professionals.

This has other effects, such as rises in insurance premiums that are now outpacing inflation and wage growth, putting pressure on families across the country.

There’s no short-term solution that will alleviate this pressure, but there are tools that can help, and technology is certainly one of them.

Advances in healthcare technology

Technology is important to any industry now, but none more than healthcare as – if implemented in the right way – it has the power to save lives.

Think about how many lives tools such as more accessible and easier-to-use automated external defibrillators (AEDs) have saved, and these are on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of the innovation being developed in healthcare.

Artificial intelligence (AI) applications such as enhancing machine vision to detect intracranial brain bleeds, 3D wound imaging, advanced cognitive medical assistants and platforms that analyse genomic data for the development of medicines are all underway and we’re only scratching the surface.

There are predictions and concerns over healthcare practitioners even being replaced by robots, but the truth is technology will serve more as an ally, freeing up practitioners from tedious tasks still completed manually every day. In doing so, practitioners will have more time to focus on the vital life-saving work they do.

Putting the right foundations in place

With so much innovation available, the question many healthcare leaders face is, where do I start?

Like anything, a good foundation is what’s needed and in technology terms this is the IT environment – think of it as the heartbeat to all things digital in a healthcare setting.

With the sheer amount of technology-related services in healthcare, there is going to be a lot of trial and error.

The key here is simplicity. If your IT environment requires a lot of time and effort to manage, your IT department will be more focused on keeping the lights on than actually adding or improving digital services.

Fortunately, much like technology itself, these IT environments have evolved and improved considerably over time and modern systems such as hyperconverged infrastructure and private and public cloud are low-touch and practically invisible, effectively managing themselves without any nursing from the IT department.

Not only do these systems free up resources, but they become a solution to which new digital capabilities can be added incrementally over time. If we think about the sheer amount of technology-related services becoming available in healthcare, there is going to be a lot of trial and error. Not everything will be the right fit for one particular organisation, and other trials may succeed to the point where an immediate rollout is needed.

Scalability is what’s needed, and a balance of private and public cloud is best suited to meet this need. For example, you can trial a new service using public cloud to support it – that means you’re essentially renting the resources without the need for any investment beyond that until you’re sure the service is something you want.

If it is, you can move the service into a private cloud environment within the building and buy the amount of resources needed to support it – no more. There’s no need to guess what level of IT resources you’ll need over the next five or six years, which would have been the case until recently.

Keeping it secure, robust and resilient

“If there is an IT-related outage in a business, it’s a problem. In a healthcare environment, it can be a disaster.”

As we rely more on technology in healthcare, it’s vital that we maintain security and resilience at the heart of everything that develops in a digital sense.

If there is an IT-related outage in a business, it’s a problem. In a healthcare environment, it can be a disaster.

Communication lines between clinicians and patients can break down, vital patient data may become inaccessible, and panic can set in. It’s only natural that the more we rely on technology – particularly in areas where monitoring and treatment are directly linked to digital applications – that the potential damage from an outage rises.

That is why it is even more important for healthcare businesses to position themselves with a secure, robust and resilient IT environment that is less susceptible to outages and correctly positioned to match the digital ambitions these organisations have, and clinicians and patients expect.

Most industries are investing in technology such as AI, Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics for increased operational efficiency and cost savings. But healthcare stands to gain so much more, and can save lives and solve many of the issues facing the industry now and in the future.

It’s important healthcare organisations continue their digital development with the right framework in place to meet these worthwhile aspirations.

Neville Vincent is Vice President, ASEAN, India and Australia and New Zealand, for enterprise cloud company Nutanix.

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