3 Healthcare Industry Trends Driving Demand for Better Network Connectivity
By Brad Gramlin
As with every other business these days, reliable connectivity is an imperative component of modern medical facilities. If a network fails, operations at an entire location can screech to a standstill — which, in the best-case scenario, is a major inconvenience, and in the worst, impacts patients’ health and wellbeing.
But reliability is just one element of a healthcare-ready network. Accessibility, security, ease of management and bandwidth also are critical features for healthcare organizations, as demonstrated by these three trends:
1. Hospitals are bettering patient experiences. Many hospitals now focus on improving the customer (i.e., patient) experience, and connectivity plays a part in that through guest networks.
Rarely are patients in waiting rooms interested in browsing old magazines or watching the news or a game show on the television. With everyone carrying their own smartphone and tablets these days, people can select their own forms of entertainment by connecting to a free guest wireless network as they wait to be seen by a provider.
A strong cellular signal can be inconsistent across large facilities or hospitals, making it important to create and manage free networks for guests. Ideally, this network is separate from the one that staff uses, to ensure security for the more mission-critical network--which brings us to the next trend:
2. Data security remains nonnegotiable. While network security is a concern in every industry, in healthcare, it’s paramount: Sensitive medical information is at stake. This means healthcare facilities must ensure hackers can’t get in — yet many organizations wait until it’s too late to take steps to protect their networks from bad actors; an Evansville, Indiana-based medical provider was forced to notify more than 100K patients about compromised data during a ransomware attack, just one of many victims of malicious attacks last year.
Horror stories like this mean many organizations are taking more proactive security measures, spurring interest in technologies like software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN). SD- WAN not only boosts connectivity to users, but it also makes it easy for IT staff to manage and monitor network health inhouse — even remotely, saving IT staff on travel time — via a single dashboard that is capable of providing a holistic view across an entire healthcare system. This enables IT staff to react to any issues or threats quickly; plus, SD-WAN allows failovers, which means IT can address any outages with minimal downtime for users.
IT also can set specific rules about network traffic — prioritizing certain users and applications like electronic health record (EHR) apps and virtual desktop infrastructure — which, in addition to boosting network security, speeds up workflows and creates organizational efficiencies.
This proactive security approach is key to protecting patient data — and while it can be expensive to implement the right measures, it’s of ten more expensive to recover fro m these attacks after the fact, especially in the case of ransomware attacks that hold patient data hostage. In 2018, Hancock Regional Hospital was compromised by a ransomware attack demanding $45 thousand in Bitcoin currency and was forced to temporarily shut down its system. Attacks like this one have only gotten more advanced over the last two years, and they will likely become even more prevalent.
3. Telemedicine’s popularity grows. Patients sometimes go without healthcare because they lack transportation or there are no providers in their area. Telemedicine eliminates these barriers, giving patients more equitable access to medical professionals. It’s also been found to be especially useful in the field of behavioral healthcare. Studies show that talk therapy can be just as effective via camera or phone as it is face to face, making therapy a great proving ground for the benefits of telemedicine.
High bandwidth network connectivity is imperative to ensure patients have a seamless interaction with their care provider via video/VoIP calls.
These three trends demonstrate a healthcare organization’s networks must be more than “just” fast and reliable; they also require comprehensive security, guest accessibility, and be easy to monitor and manage. Organizations that implement infrastructure with these traits will provide an excellent experience for patients, providers and staff alike — a healthy goal to strive toward.
Brad Gramlin is director of enterprise sales for Comcast Business’ Heartland Region, which includes Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan. Gramlin is responsible for inspiring and coaching a team of technology experts who help bandwidth-hungry businesses, schools and governments find and implement the right technology solutions. He’s worked for Comcast Business for 10 years.
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