How Digital Transformation in Healthcare and Pharma Saves Lives

Interconnection’s role in preventative healthcare

Tim Waters
How Digital Transformation in Healthcare and Pharma Saves Lives

According to Deloitte, the number of people in America with chronic illnesses has been rising steadily for years – today, an estimated 133 million Americans have at least one chronic disease, such as heart disease, asthma, cancer, and diabetes.[i] While these types of diseases are typically incurable, they can often be prevented or managed. This is why healthcare and pharmaceutical (pharma) firms are focused on well-being and prevention, as well as proactive, personalized treatments.

Healthcare providers are counting on customer-driven data streaming from wearable devices and always-on biosensors to provide a personalized picture of an individual’s well-being, from sleep patterns to heart rates and brain waves. As a result, many pharma firms are investing in real-world evidence (RWE) about their product’s usage, potential benefits and risks from patients’ real-world data (RWD). However, to be useful, this data must be exchanged, consumed and shared among different systems as it is created. Digital transformation in the healthcare and pharma industries is therefore being driven by the need for open, secure platforms, big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies are crucial to effectively and cost-efficiently process and analyze massive amounts of data for a wealth of insights.

Personalized insights into patients’ health will enable precision well-being and real-time micro-interventions that allow doctors and medical researchers to get further ahead of sickness and catastrophic disease. Healthcare and pharma companies are opening up patient portals that put diagnostic test results and drug purchasing power directly into patients’ hands. Data derived from interactions with patients help drive drug development that supports greater patient outcomes and reduces those treatments’ time to market.

Supporting the movement of such massive amounts of data will require an interconnected healthcare data exchange. Such an exchange will need a unified, secure, and high-performing foundational platform on which to share the appropriate data – for example: provider to pharma, provider to payer, payer to provider, payer to claims processing, and so on. The myriad of connectivity requirements are geometric in size and scope and increasingly hard to visualize.

More specifically, this data exchange requires direct and secure interconnection to support the digital transformation needed for these two industries to positively impact disease prevention and patient care. That is why the Global Interconnection Index Volume 3, a study published by Equinix, estimates that the global interconnection bandwidth capacity within the Healthcare and Life Sciences industry will grow by 71% annually between 2018 and 2022.[ii]

What to expect: Looking into the future of healthcare and pharma

Digital transformation in the healthcare and pharma industries promises to deliver more personalized, data-driven patient care and positive outcomes, faster time to market for drugs and treatments, and, ultimately, lower healthcare costs. Some of the ways these outcomes will be fulfilled include:

  • Integrated data and systems: Patient and research data will be collected from multiple sources, analyzed using AI, and shared in real time among various systems (physical and virtual) to enhance all aspects of personalized patient care and treatment development.
  • Care ecosystems: Virtual and physical communities, made up of healthcare hubs, specialty care operators, care-delivery mechanisms, and product developers will collaborate to drive customized patient care.
  •  Care enablement value chains: Consumer payment and supply logistics will be facilitated and coordinated by financiers and intermediaries (e.g., insurers, payment processors, etc.), driven by advanced analytics and risk assessment. This would include partners that assess whether regulatory and compliance requirements are being met.

Healthcare and pharma IT organizations need to invest in real-time, secure communications and data exchange with patients, partner ecosystems, and network and cloud providers to create new digital value chains and innovative care and treatment delivery models. Traditional IT infrastructures cannot integrate the digital services, vast data sources, and real-time analytics and AI needed to deliver personalized patient experiences. Nor can they provide the data-driven insights that improve patient outcomes, bring new treatments to market and reduce costs.

To remain viable and relevant and meet regulatory dictates, healthcare and pharma organizations must re-architect their IT infrastructures for emerging digital technologies. A globally distributed interconnection platform, such as Platform Equinix®, securely integrates digital services, enables dynamic partner and ecosystem collaboration, and leverages data for more personalized care and treatment innovation. All of these benefits contribute to better patient experiences and improved outcomes.

According to Matt Douglas, the Chief Enterprise Architect at Sentara Healthcare, there is “a huge transformation in the healthcare industry,” especially when it comes to securely managing data. By leveraging hybrid cloud interconnection on Platform Equinix to transfer all of its data into the cloud, he believes that Sentara is “ahead of the game.” Because of HIPAA patient data privacy regulations, Sentara must track the actual performance of securely moving data from its on-premise data center to its Microsoft Azure cloud at Equinix, where its compute, data lake, data services and predictive analytics reside. Douglas sees “amazing” low latency (under 11 milliseconds) when privately exchanging data from Sentara’s data center to the Azure cloud at Equinix, at less than 60% in overall infrastructure costs, and with no down time.

Learn more about how healthcare and pharmaceutical companies are leveraging interconnection to prevent illness and save lives.


[i] Deloitte, “The Forces of Change: The Future of Healthcare,” April 2019.

[ii] Interconnection bandwidth is defined as the total capacity provisioned to privately and directly exchange traffic, with a diverse set of partners and providers, at distributed IT exchange points inside carrier-neutral colocation data centers.


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Tim Waters Americas Leader for Healthcare and Life Sciences
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