Freedom From Fear Will Accelerate Digital Health

Russell Poole

I appeared on a panel recently at the Digital Health World Congress, looking ahead to how technology is going to shape healthcare in the short term.

People have long been talking about the potential for technology to revolutionise healthcare. In recent years, the hype has been so big, and expectations raised so high, that it sometimes feels like we are all in limbo – waiting for all the promise to be realised.

As our moderator, the BBC’s Adnan Nawaz said at the start, “the electric light did not come from the continuous improvement of candles”. Disruption is as potent in healthcare as it is anywhere else, and the breakthroughs just as real, but the pace of change is not always as fast as in other sectors.

The panel discussed the reasons for this. Heavy regulation and the difficulty of navigating process. Entrenched attitudes that delay adoption. Privacy and security concerns. All of these were cited and they all play a role.

My fellow panellist and Equinix customer, Nuno Godinho from GE Healthcare, said this is why collaboration is perhaps more essential in healthcare than other industries. He said that companies who want to introduce new technology need to learn to work closely with regulators. He also said there is a mindshift underway, fewer people are dismissing the latest innovations as science fiction, but are seeing their transformative potential.

Nuno is right on all of that. That mindshift itself is one of the biggest breakthroughs of the year, and there are other trends that are coming through loud and clear. The traditional business model of the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry is transforming from being ‘pill-centric’ to ‘patient-centric,’ creating new value for the delivery of future patient engagement and targeted patient therapies. We are seeing a far greater interest in not just patient outcomes but in the patient experience, in private health and in the NHS. And that means a greater focus on individual analytics and personalised medicine. But while a conversion is underway, old doubts still linger. Particularly around security in the wake of the WannaCry attack that hit the NHS so hard.

These fears are understandable. The challenge is immense – it’s estimated that there are 50 billion devices connected today and as more are connected the risk increases. The new ‘patient-centric’ channels, products, applications and services will produce huge data assets which will need to be analysed and processed to produce a competitive business advantage. To ensure best performance, this data must be closer to end users at the digital edge. By operating at the edge and matching needs to the best cloud services, a more agile, flexible and scalable IT service delivery infrastructure is created, enabling enhanced performance whilst avoiding system vulnerabilities. This is where a robust digital infrastructure strategy including data centres will play a vital role.

What we do at Equinix is free our customers up from any fear around security issues so they can concentrate on real innovation. On Platform Equinix, companies can directly connect to network and cloud providers, or customers and partners across any number of vertical industries and, away from the public internet. That gives companies the security and the confidence to share data through direct interconnection, fast-tracking the R&D process to make big leaps forward, rapidly developing new technologies and novel types of care around the new patient-centric model. This kind of collaboration is what will realise the promise of digital health and medtech and that’s why the future of healthcare is so closely connected with interconnection and migration to cloud. Our Interconnection Strategy Guide provides more information on this including advice on how to utilise the digital edge and leverage digital ecosystems to innovate and enhance current processes.

In common with my other panellists, I am optimistic that there will be genuine acceleration of the adoption of tech into healthcare over the next two years. We are already working with businesses such as Medical Information Records (MIR), a medical software holding company that leverages new technology to improve the point of care for patients, improve workflow and manage critical data. Prior to partnering with Equinix, MIR’s IT infrastructure was not suited to handle the demand for its AnesthesiaOS product to support its expanding customer base. Equinix Professional Services for Cloud (EPS) worked in partnership with MIR to migrate their cloud-based model from the colocation facility to Microsoft Azure and helped to formalise its cloud development methodologies, thus enabling improved scalability, disaster recovery and cost reduction.

As collaboration grows, as tech companies learn how to work with regulators, and as companies increasingly work together in secure environments in the cloud, the pace can only pick up. Digital Health really does have limitless potential for bringing positive change in health and social care services.