We are living in an immediate, always-on world where applications and IT services are available on demand. The healthcare sector is being driven by consumer requirements for self-service, personalized medicine, instantaneous and secure access to patient information, and evolving industry regulations around data privacy.
To meet these demands, we’ve seen a huge increase in the sophistication and innovation of new digital health-related technologies. More data is being generated and consumed by people, software and machines, faster and on more medical devices and in more locations than ever before. To compete in the new digital healthcare world, organizations must be able to aggregate data in new, scalable ways that allow for real-time analysis that leads to greater patient outcomes. MarketsandMarkets predicts that this will result in an increase in the global healthcare analytics market at a 27.3% CAGR to $29.84 billion by 2022.
To be competitive, healthcare firms will need to combine their vast amounts of data with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – be it Google-developed AI/ML algorithms to identify cancerous tumors on mammograms or cloud-assisted medical collaboration leading to new drugs or treatments. This will require global Interconnection – direct private traffic exchange between key business partners – to ensure that life-saving data is delivered to the right people, at the right place, at the right time.
Providing smart healthcare
Traditional healthcare is now transforming into “smart healthcare” thanks to digital technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and advanced analytics. Healthcare providers are leveraging mobile and electronic technology for better diagnosis of diseases, improved treatment of patients and enhanced quality of life. There is also a tremendous rise in patients accessing health providers’ patient portals to get the most up-to-date information on their health and communicate with their doctors directly. In the U.S., 82 % of patients surveyed by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) in 2017 said that they had accessed their provider’s patient portal at least once, compared with a similar AHIMA survey in 2013 that showed fewer than 5% of patients had logged in.
We also see that greater use of real world evidence in the analysis of patients’ health data is invaluable as pharmaceutical firms work to drive medical breakthroughs, reduce drug costs and demonstrate greater value to consumers. To ensure more positive and predictable patient outcomes, digitally enabled “beyond the pill” solutions need to be administered that leverage technologies to collect and analyze a patient’s condition. This enables pharma companies to introduce more customized treatments for illnesses and generate the data required to prove a drug’s effectiveness.
Healthcare’s digital transformation
Digital transformation is becoming the cornerstone of advancing the future of healthcare and, ultimately, reducing costs and driving more positive patient outcomes. However, traditional IT infrastructures were not designed to support smart health. Legacy systems, IT infrastructures and networks are keeping providers from delivering the personalized healthcare and targeted pharmaceutical solutions patients require. The patient experience suffers if providers cannot accommodate the real-time omnichannel interactions between patients, doctors, medical records, and prescription ordering and delivery that are expected.
To succeed, healthcare firms need to address how they can update IT infrastructures and networks to ensure the responsiveness and data security needed to deliver smart healthcare. This requires new levels of decentralization, consumerization and personalization that can only be delivered by Interconnection.
The Global Interconnection Index (the GXI), a market study recently published by Equinix, predicts that global Interconnection growth in the healthcare and life sciences sector will increase 70% over the next five years to 169 terabits per second (Tbps) of installed Interconnection Bandwidth (see chart below). This is the total capacity provisioned to privately and directly exchange traffic, with a diverse set of counterparties and providers, at distributed IT exchange points inside carrier-neutral colocation data centers.
INTERCONNECTION BANDWIDTH BY INDUSTRY TYPE
The GXI projects that the highest Interconnection Bandwidth growth will be in Europe with 66 Tbps capacity by 2021. The U.S. follows with 55 Tbps, then Asia-Pacific with 41 Tbps and finally LATAM with 7 Tbps by 2021. These numbers are a strong indicator of how Interconnection is a critical component in the healthcare and life sciences digital transformation.
Adding greater value without adding risk
To add greater value while mitigating risk, healthcare firms will need to more strategically interconnect workflows across people, locations, clouds, data and things to support real-time interactions in any location. By streamlining information sharing and allowing real-time communication with patients, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical firms, government regulators and business partners, new opportunities will arise. For example, medicines can be brought to market more quickly, saving money, increasing innovation and enhancing a company’s competitive position.
However, digital transformation increases vulnerability points – especially when data is distributed across many different sources and consumers. All these interactions must be fortified with stringent and reliable data security and privacy and compliance policies and controls, especially at the edge where most data is created and consumed. With the global cost of security breaches set to reach $6 trillion by 2021, no business, no matter how big or small, can afford the risk of even a single cyberattack. The rise in private Interconnection Bandwidth worldwide, as predicted by the GXI, is a response to the escalating security risk inherent in the public internet, as all businesses are increasingly opting for private, direct connections.
One example of how a healthcare firm is successfully securing its customers’ sensitive healthcare data is Dutch medical services company Fysiologic. The company leverages an interconnected hybrid cloud environment to collect and analyze huge amounts of electrocardiogram data for approximately 1 million heart patients in eight countries worldwide. Patients use Fysiologic’s medical IoT hardware and software to track heart readings and then share this accurate data with their doctors. To help Fysiologic solve its data challenges, Equinix and Damecon partnered to provide a collaborative solution. Damecon, a Dutch technical services firm, creates flexible data management solutions, blending the best of on-premises, private and public cloud.
Damecon’s secure S3 platform, combined with Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ (ECX Fabric™), enabled Fysiologic to move its sensitive patient data to secure Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers, which are rigorously maintained to meet the highest levels of standards and compliance.
With ECX Fabric in Equinix IBX data centers, Fysiologic directly, securely and dynamically connected its distributed infrastructure and digital ecosystems globally on Platform Equinix® via software-defined Interconnection. Since ECX Fabric is designed for scalability, agility and connectivity over a self-service portal or an API, Fysiologic can quickly expand its business globally.
Interconnection must come first to enable smarter healthcare
These incredible medical innovations and opportunities brought about by new digital technologies can only be made possible with direct and secure Interconnection. Traditional IT infrastructures must be transformed or integrated with a more robust, agile and scalable IT infrastructure based on Interconnection and colocation at the edge, closer to people, locations, clouds, data and things for the best performance and user experience.
As a result, health organizations of all kinds can embrace new digital technologies by leveraging Interconnection Oriented Architecture® (IOA®) best practices to access health ecosystems and IoT devices, and to directly and securely interconnect an increasingly distributed and global mix of healthcare employees, partners and consumers. By leveraging IOA on Platform Equinix, healthcare firms and their partners and service providers can build their digital infrastructures on a world-leading Interconnection platform with dense network and cloud ecosystems that make it the trusted center of a cloud-first world. Ultimately, greater Interconnection will enable smarter healthcare and deliver more positive patient outcomes.
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