Interconnecting the Digital Arteries for Healthcare Organizations of the Future

Laying the building blocks for innovative healthcare

Rajaneesh Kurup

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to stretch the healthcare sector in unprecedented ways, as it shows no signs of abating any time soon. Strides may have been made in terms of vaccine development, testing, and roll-out programs, but the ripple effect of the global crisis looks set to impact the sector for many years to come.

According to Global Interconnection Index Volume 4, a recent market study announced by Equinix, Healthcare & Life Sciences in Asia-Pacific shows accelerating growth with a 48% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2019 and 2023.

As providers strive to meet the emerging requirements for telemedicine and remote care, the need to build robust digital healthcare organizations has become more pressing than ever. Although conversations revolving around the matter were already gaining traction before the pandemic, the implications of COVID-19 on how current healthcare organizations are navigating the ‘new normal’ and how more patients are receiving remote healthcare around the world have brought it to the forefront.

I recently had the pleasure of being on a panel with Dr. Patrick Chia (Director for Clinical Transformation Services, Integrated Health Information Systems), Dr. Vincenzo Teneggi (Senior Director of Translational Medicine, Galapagos) and Asad Khan (Managing Director of Health & Public Service, Accenture) to discuss on the matter.

Blueprint for Building a Digital Healthcare Organization

With data volumes exploding, the entire healthcare value chain has to deal with the challenges of gathering, sharing, collaborating, processing and using data.

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Assembling the building blocks for better collaboration

Data in digital healthcare is growing at a very rapid rate[1], poised to match up in magnitude with industries like manufacturing and financial services, and it is important to define its role beyond the context of today. To create a truly data-driven and densely connected digital healthcare organization fit for the future, agility, scalability, and interoperability need to be enabled by seamless interconnection to key cloud networks and data exchange between ecosystems. This is so that stakeholders can come together and collaborate in much shorter timeframes than before. In doing so, data becomes much more than just a voluminous burden on storage, but a real asset that can be actively and meaningfully deployed to enhance patient care.

All the experts on the panel agree that collaboration will be a key underlying factor in ensuring the success of the digital healthcare organization. From governments and bio-tech companies to healthcare service providers and members of the academia, everybody holds a piece of the puzzle. With more research and development (R&D) and discovery hubs being set up in key locations around the globe – including Singapore, more opportunities will arise for cross-border knowledge-sharing, benefitting the sector and beyond. In fact, we managed to catch a glimpse of the possibilities during the rush to create the COVID-19 vaccine recently, when teamwork of such a level had yet to be seen on the international stage.

Benefitting from rich ecosystems

Through collaboration, we can strive towards increasing the number of rich healthcare ecosystems to strengthen the relationship between life sciences organizations and healthcare providers. By driving the paradigm shift from working in silos to more integrated environments that bring various stakeholders together, countries with less-developed healthcare can build points of presence in direct proximity to advanced markets to draw from their data and expertise, maximizing efficacy overall.

As the traditional infrastructure for digital healthcare data was not designed for multi-party workflows, players within the healthcare ecosystem have had to re-architect existing chains of API-based digital services to drive transformation. Today, we are already beginning to see the positive ramifications of ecosystem data exchanges. For example, through our partnership with Optus in Australia, we are able to offer an interconnection platform solution that supports Children’s Cancer Institute in eradicating childhood cancer through Australia’s Zero Childhood Cancer Program. Leveraging Equinix’ secure, reliable, cloud-adjacent architecture, the institute can now connect to a variety of private cloud providers, network service providers and cancer research institutions globally to support high-speed data exchange and complex genomic profiling.

Humanizing AI and analytics for trust, privacy, and infrastructure

With so much data being shared internationally, concerns surrounding privacy have also understandably grown. Currently, many countries have fragmented, complex infrastructures spread across both private and public entities, and while hybrid multicloud architectures will lower latency and simplify it all, trust is always a big issue.

In Singapore, Dr. Patrick Chia, Director for Clinical Transformation Services at the Integrated Health Information Systems in Singapore noted that there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of setting government policies, regulations and guidelines on data privacy and sovereignty, IP protection, and the like. Cooperation between intergovernmental agencies and institutes also has to be fostered to establish a thriving extensible framework that promotes interoperability and places patients as the top priority.

With strong infrastructure comes the capability for a digital healthcare organization to step up and leverage new technologies. According to Dr. Chia and Dr. Vincenzo Teneggi, Senior Director of Translational Medicine at Galapagos, the systematic use of artificial intelligence (AI) could significantly improve the way clinical trials are conducted. From recognizing similar genetic patterns across a wide geographical cluster and monitoring the patient data collection process for mitigation of error, to increasing the capacity of trials being run as a whole, more avenues can be opened up and explored to enable more successful patient outcomes.

Although AI could never replicate the human element in ‘real’ doctors, analytics can play a big part in helping the latter provide better patient care in general, whether it be predicting the likelihood of IVF pregnancies via incubation video time lapses, detecting and understanding disease progression, or prescribing more effective treatment and long-term medication by charting patient journeys accurately.

Paving the way forward

Ultimately, the sooner we put more effort into building digital healthcare organizations, the more prepared we will be for future pandemics or outbreaks such as COVID-19. To avoid another large-scale health crisis, Asad Khan, Managing Director of Health & Public Service at Accenture mentioned that the ability to connect and collaborate with a preferred partner needs to be a foundational element in facilitating and anonymizing data flow.

To glean meaningful insights and form a flourishing Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), there also needs to be a core transformation on an infrastructural level worldwide. This should go hand-in-hand with a focus on educating the end user and improving their experiences in terms of accessibility to healthcare and innovative breakthroughs in clinical research. As we continue to make progress, the future of the digital healthcare organization is an exciting one to watch.

To hear more about how healthcare providers and the government can approach the future of digital healthcare together, listen in to the on-demand webinar – A Blueprint for Building A Digital Healthcare Organization.


[1] The healthcare data explosion, RBC Capital Markets

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