Digital Hospitals and Healthcare: What the Future Holds

Equinix and AT&T discuss how interconnection is advancing and accelerating virtual patient care

Tim Waters
Rod Cruz

Prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry was undertaking some digital transformation developments with electronic health records (EHRs) and digital patient monitoring devices to advance patient care. Then as the pandemic hit, the industry was required to accelerate digital transformation initiatives that allowed patient data to be securely collected, managed, analyzed and shared – virtually. Today, these changes are helping accelerate the industry’s trajectory toward the wide-spread adoption of telemedicine and virtual patient care in the U.S., which Forrester predicts will soar to more than 1 billion visits this year, including 900 million just related to COVID-19.[i]

Digital transformation in healthcare is now compulsory to better serve patients and the digital ways they want to interact with their medical providers. A survey of healthcare industry leaders performed by the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) on behalf of AT&T found that 64% of providers are pursuing digital transformation to revolutionize patient experiences.[ii]

Throughout most of 2020, hospitals were required to limit the number of in-person medical visits, streamline complex processes, and improve patient care and outcomes. This drove many to adopt a number of digitally transformative technologies.  These give us a pretty accurate picture of what the future of digital healthcare will look like with advanced use of patient data at its core. We anticipate the following trends will help transform patient care for the better over many years to come:

Improvements in Patient Data Collection and Availability

  • Integrated Patient Engagement Platforms: Patient portals, apps, and integration services provide friendly user interfaces that bring patients and doctors together for telemedicine appointments. In addition, centralizing their post-visit summaries, medical records, test results, and healthcare information, as well as enabling secure direct email and telemedicine communications with their physicians will greatly improve patient interactions.
  • Wearables/IoT Devices: Home healthcare is utilizing new wireless, wearable medical technology and internet of things (IoT) enabled devices that provide patient remote diagnostic monitoring and treatments. Many of these smart connected medical devices rely on high-speed, low-latency wireless networks (4G/5G), in addition to cloud-based healthcare analytics for data analysis. Wearables have also been used to support contact tracing to help track potential transmission exposure for COVID-19.

Advances in Patient Data Storage, Processing and Security

  • Security: Many hospitals are implementing SD-WAN and network function virtualization (NFV) connectivity methods to extend healthcare provider campus networks while utilizing the full cybersecurity stacks available for encryption, access control, firewall, SASE (secure access service edge), and threat detection and mitigation. Additionally, blockchain is also being used to protect patient data in ways that can provide the patient ultimate control over who views and uses their own data, while private peering obviates the need to use the public internet to exchange any protected health information (PHI) data.
  • Cloud Data Storage and Processing: More PHI data is being stored securely in the cloud, as clinical applications pivot to cloud based deployment, lowering costs to hospital systems and enabling rapid and secure sharing of patient data. As an example, EHRs are being placed in the cloud due to economies of scale and accessibility, making patient records more readily available for collaborative patient care, clinical decision support systems, research, insurance processing, billing, etc.
  • Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML): AI/ML are being used to determine better treatment modalities for patients as an important component to collaborative diagnostics among physicians and systems. And AI/ML phenotyping is being used to help aid in the early detection of diseases, cancers, etc. by providing algorithmic comparisons of sick and well patients.
64%

64% of providers are pursuing digital transformation to revolutionize patient experiences.

Equinix and AT&T Business Solutions

Equinix and AT&T Business have worked together ever since the founding of Equinix in 1998. This collaboration has grown increasingly valuable for organizations that need integrated network solutions to help reduce latency, increase flexibility, and improve overall network performance.

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Networking and private interconnection are powering advances in patient data collection, storage and use

According to Jeroen Tas, Chief Innovation and Strategy Officer at Philips, “[t]he hospital of the future is a network with flexible capacity, connected by a single digital infrastructure: critically ill patients are cared for in (remotely supported) ICUs; regular care takes place in connected health hubs in the community; while the at-risk patient population is monitored remotely and more engaged with their health than ever before.”[iii]

Mr. Tas’s prediction is close to becoming a reality for many healthcare providers around the world who understand that delivering the best patient care is dependent on data traversing a flexible, next-gen hybrid multicloud architecture that is distributed near patients, networks, clouds and dense healthcare ecosystems.

This type of healthcare ecosystem is designed to innovate, collaborate and build new digital capabilities and services (e.g., patient scheduling, billing, insurance claims, pharma, medical devices, EHRs and many more) to improve patient outcomes. An integrated healthcare ecosystem relies on networking and private interconnection, as network carriers provide the right-sized connectivity to support patient data collection on the hospital campus and at home. And a private distributed exchange allows healthcare and life sciences organizations to securely interconnect (bypassing the public internet) to share and analyze data with one another.

McKinsey & Company states that, “Ecosystems create powerful forces that can reshape and disrupt industries. In healthcare, they have the potential to deliver a personalized and integrated experience to consumers, enhance provider productivity, engage formal and informal caregivers, and improve outcomes and affordability.”[iv]

How Equinix and AT&T Business can help

AT&T Business and Equinix have worked together ever since the founding of Equinix in 1998 as a neutral hub where networks could physically exchange data, quickly scale and maximize the performance of the internet. Since then, AT&T Business has established direct on-net networking in most Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers around the globe.

AT&T’s extensive network infrastructure on Platform Equinix provides AT&T customers with increased flexibility with the types of network connections they want to utilize close to the ecosystems that matter. Employing a network right-sizing mentality, healthcare organizations can combine several networking solutions to achieve business objectives. For example, traditional MPLS technologies in combination with Ethernet may best serve data centers while broadband and dedicated internet meet the needs of a remote site. Switched and dedicated Ethernet flavors are chosen based on the intended use and bandwidth volumes that customers require. SD-WAN in conjunction with MPLS and broadband for regional and remote offices is also becoming commonplace.

In healthcare, they [ecosystems] have the potential to deliver a personalized and integrated experience to consumers, enhance provider productivity, engage formal and informal caregivers, and improve outcomes and affordability

The flexibility of accessing AT&T’s vast network within Equinix facilities allows AT&T Business customers to realize the improved overall network performance that a next-gen hybrid multicloud architecture provides. AT&T customers also experience accelerated deployment and simplified contracting by purchasing Equinix through AT&T Business, utilizing their existing AT&T Business master service agreements.

Together Equinix and AT&T are helping healthcare professionals and hospitals deploy networking and private interconnection solutions that accelerate digital transformation so they can take on the medical challenges of today and tomorrow.

Schedule a meeting with Equinix and AT&T Business

Let Equinix and AT&T Business[v] share digital trends and strategies that other healthcare organizations are using to remain competitive during a 60-90-minute virtual Digital Edge Strategy Briefing. You will leave the meeting with a set of short and long-term strategies (with diagrams) you can use in your network architecture planning and design.

 

You may also want to read:

Fortifying IT Against Disruption a white paper by Equinix and AT&T Business

 

[i] Forrester Research, “US Virtual Care Visits to Soar to More Than 1 Billion,” Forrester Senior Analysts Jeff Becker and Arielle Trzcinski, April 10. 2020.

[ii] HIMSS and AT&T, “The Digital Hospital: Where Technology Transforms the Patient Experience.”

[iii] Phillips, “What will the hospital of the future look like in a post COVID-19 world?,” July 7, 2020.

[iv] McKinsey & Company, “ The next wave of healthcare innovation: The evolution of ecosystems?” by Shubham Singhal, Basel Kayyali, Rob Levin, and Zachary Greenberg, June 23, 2030.

[v] AT&T, the Globe logo and other AT&T marks are trademarks and service marks of AT&T Intellectual Property. Information referenced herein about AT&T products or services is not intended as an offer, commitment, representation, or warranty by AT&T and is subject to change.

AT&T’s extensive network infrastructure on Platform Equinix provides AT&T customers with increased flexibility with the types of network connections they want to utilize close to the ecosystems that matter.
Tim Waters
Tim Waters Americas Leader for Healthcare and Life Sciences
Rod Cruz
Rod Cruz General Manager, Healthcare Solutions, AT&T Business