Nicole Hill leads the Healthcare division at global networking and communications provider, ALE, and has a goal – to make everyone and everything connect. Hill explains all to Ian Hunter.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): What do you mean by ‘to make everyone and everything connect’?
Nicole Hill (NH): Healthcare is going through its own digital transformation. New technology, such as wearables, telemedicine and IoT connectivity is making its way into hospitals, clinics and care homes. It is aimed at optimising care pathways to reduce average hospital stays and improve patient welfare. But without the right infrastructure in place to support new devices and applications working on the front-line of healthcare, the limitations of existing systems will hinder technology adoption and the weaknesses in security will be laid bare – as has been shown by recent attacks on the NHS in the U.K. and data breaches in the U.S. Reach beyond hospital borders for better healthcare outcomes.
Healthcare providers are not immune from the rise in patient expectations when it comes to technology. Patients now have access to a wide range of medical information online and are accustomed to digital services and connectivity. The challenge for many healthcare providers today is to meet these digital service expectations while using enhanced connectivity to promote better health outcomes.
The answer lies in using technology to develop an optimised care pathway – one that reaches right across the healthcare ecosystem for a continuum of care. This means connecting with patients outside hospital or clinic boundaries through fast-response contact centres, automated patient reminders to cut down missed appointments, video diagnoses and remote monitoring or health tracking.
CBM: So, is this about connecting staff and devices to the ‘Internet of Healthcare Things’?
NH: On-site, any care pathway must presume the default mode of connecting most devices on the network is going to be wireless. User devices such as workstations on wheels, tablets and smartphones, and clinical devices such as mobile image capture, infusion pumps and location tags all rely on being mobile and connected to the network.
Caregivers can’t be in two places at once, but with the right applications and tools, nurses can monitor wards and patient events 24/7. Simplified bedside voice and text communications or integrated notification and alarm systems can send information straight to caregivers’ workstations or mobile devices meaning round-the-clock care, at the desk or on the move.
Clinicians can access EMRs at the bedside or easily connect and collaborate with colleagues without having to return to their desks. Not only does this save caregivers valuable time, it also streamlines patient care by communicating crucial clinical information to team members, regardless of location.
Connecting departments and staff with enterprise-grade, mobile collaboration will be as important as reliable IoT connectivity and is central to properly supporting multidisciplinary healthcare and optimising staff time and workflows.
CBM: I can see that this is going to be too complex for many staff and especially patients.
NH: From a user perspective, IT needs to be intuitive or you risk alienating some of your patients and staff. This means simple but secure internet access on the front-end where the needs of patients and staff are met. But behind the scenes IT needs to be tightly controlled and delivered without a disruptive impact on critical network services – making sure authorised users can always access the resources they need.
With the right approach, access to networks and data can be based on set user profiles and predefined policies. The right people – and only the right people – can access and record information securely or use the applications and tools they need on their mobile or fixed devices. The IT department has the network visibility to see all the traffic and users, prioritise devices and applications, reserve or limit bandwidth or blacklist devices.
There is huge potential for improved connectivity to have a massive impact in healthcare, and help create positive outcomes for patients. Healthcare providers can put the right tools in the hands of caregivers and deploy a network infrastructure capable of supporting them.
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