Interconnection – The Heart of Smart Healthcare

A Smart City Series – How re-architecting for the digital edge is improving patient experiences

Countries in Asia-Pacific are looking to be ‘smarter’ for stronger economic growth, wealth and the betterment of people’s lives through smart initiatives. One area of key focus as part of these initiatives is one of the greatest assets we all have – health & wellbeing.

Across the region, healthcare is being forced to adapt to rising costs, changing regulations, growing demand from patients for personalized care and an increasing number of digital-savvy service users that expect app-based, always-on and immediate solutions. Shifts in population are also having an impact – according to Frost & Sullivan, by 2025, about 25% of Asia’s citizens will be aged 65 years and above, and in need of a high volume of complex care.

Requirements for real time, secure communications and data exchange with patients, partners, health ecosystems and network/cloud providers are forcing healthcare companies to invest in new interconnected digital value chains, R&D, diagnostics and care delivery models.

Traditional IT infrastructures were not designed to be ‘smart’. Today, public and private sectors face challenges such as inefficient healthcare administration, massive data pools, uneven distribution of access, and privacy and security issues. Legacy systems and preventing providers from delivering the targeted healthcare that patients require, and cannot support more omnichannel, real time interactions between patients, doctors and medical records, resulting in a poor patient experience.

Breaking down legacy barriers

To get a better understanding of the healthcare landscape in Asia-Pacific, we commissioned Frost & Sullivan on a report – ‘Asia-Pacific Digital Health Outlook’. According to healthcare IT decision makers, the top-of-mind issues they face when driving the adoption of digital services include:

  • Network connectivity and bandwidth – Ensuring speed, access and high-quality experiences
  • Impact on productivity and ROI – IT downtime, poor application performance, and unintuitive workflows that impact investment returns
  • Data security – New technologies, sources, and use of health information are prompting healthcare organizations to take a closer look at their data security, privacy, and compliance architecture.
  • Cloud Adoption – Home monitoring, Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), precision medicine, and drug discovery depend heavily on cloud adoption in healthcare

Delivering to expectations through edge innovation 

Addressing these concerns requires an interconnected platform for data continuity, big data, analytics and AI, precision medicine, and IoMT – all of which are smart by nature – to deliver seamless end-user experience, increase ROI on technology, and address cybersecurity issues.

Faster patient outcomes rely on improved network connectivity and bandwidth to ensure speed, reduce latency and guarantee consistent patient services, user access and flow. By leveraging an Interconnection Oriented Architecture® (IOA®) approach, healthcare companies can re-architect IT for security and compliance whilst enabling new digital capabilities and scalability. This enables them to create agile, digital-enabled services to better cope with increased demand during peak periods and more easily accommodate mobile users to deliver personalized, outcome-based patient care.

Strategic interconnection control points, such as an IT architecture based on interconnection and colocation, mean healthcare organizations can incorporate new digital technologies, integrate health ecosystems, and access network, cloud and IT service providers to scale patient-focused digital healthcare services.

Developing connected platforms that empower the front-line healthcare workforce with patient information, analytics, and connected healthcare devices is also key to improving efficiency and protecting data.

Platform Equinix® enables healthcare companies to tap into a growing ecosystem of network, cloud and IT service providers, directly and securely interconnecting them. This puts them closer to their patients, customers, suppliers and government departments across a global footprint, enabling them to create agile, cost-effective, digital-enabled services for personalized, outcome-based patient care.

Smart healthcare in action 

Healthcare stakeholders are already embracing digital transformation to improve service capacity and delivery. A 2018 study by IBM1 entitled ‘Incumbents Strike Back’ found that 72% of healthcare companies have, or are planning to deploy, a platform business model to help improve patient care. This also echoed in the findings from the Global Interconnection Index Volume 1,  which predicts that the healthcare industry in Asia-Pacific will grow its use of Interconnection Bandwidth by 74% by 2020. Examples of this digitization are already prevalent across the region.

The use of technology enabled care was mandated as early as 1990 in Hong Kong, meaning the government now holds over 280 terabytes of healthcare data, spanning patient records, clinical notes, drug history, laboratory records and imaging data. In its Smart City Blueprint2, the Hospital Authority will create a Big Data Analytics platform to facilitate healthcare research from 2019.

In 2016, Singapore launched the Healthhub3 web portal and app – a one-stop online health information and services portal. It functions as a digital healthcare companion for citizens, providing information, knowledge, tools and services to help them take greater ownership of their health.

In both of these examples, big data approaches and app-based delivery require low-latency, scalable, interconnected data, incorporating both cloud-based and legacy site-based data resources. Once provisioned, the benefits derived from overlapping data sets, their analyses and result-sharing can empower transformation in the healthcare sector.

In Japan meanwhile, the government is launching initiatives to promote the development of AI and robotics in medical care, medical devices and pharmaceutical R&D. In 2015, the government relaxed regulations to allow the introduction of telemedicine, and Japan’s Revitalization Strategy is spurring investments in IT infrastructure for regional health information exchanges and home monitoring.

The Australian government allocated AU$374.2 million (USD 277.7 million) in its 2017-18 Budget to be invested over two years for the rollout of an opt-out model of My Health Record4 to ensure every Australian has access to their medical data. The Australian Digital Health Agency is creating a seamlessly-interconnected digital healthcare system for Australia, with emphasis on building an evidence base to reassure clinicians and demonstrate to them how digital information-sharing can transform healthcare.

Whilst the majority of healthcare companies in Asia-Pacific have yet to realize the full potential of services that can be delivered if the right ecosystem partners for an IoT platform are in place, progress is being made. New innovations like AR, VR and AI are spaces for technology and healthcare organizations to expand into by not only creating new solutions, but also introducing new models of care delivery. Such technology solutions are already in pilot phases and expected to enter Asian markets by 2025.

With so much transformation taking place in the healthcare sector, those who fail to embrace digitization risk losing market share to disruptors, face profitability challenges and be increasingly exposed to cybersecurity and compliance issues.  In the meantime, for those who understand the importance of ‘smart’ healthcare, interconnection will continue to play a key role in delivering a better user experience and smarter services for the providers and medical professionals that help us take care of our greatest asset – health.

Read more on the Smart City series:

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