Connected Healthcare part 1:
An introduction to Network as a Service

It is amazing to dream of a seamlessly Connected Healthcare system. Imagine all of an individual’s health-related information, from birth to end-of-life, available in a single, secure record to every care organization with whom she engages (emergency responder, provider, payer, promoter, researcher), to empower her care team for fully integrated healthcare from home through emergency transport to hospital and back. What would it take to realize a dream like this? 

Health systems throughout our country are making amazing advances toward it through interoperability standards like HL7 FHIR (Health Level Seven – Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources). However, with the multitude of care models, processes, systems, and devices in use, it can be a challenging journey to truly Connected Healthcare. This requires a new healthcare network approach, or reference architecture, executed through Network as a Service (NaaS) for the evolving healthcare network of tomorrow.   

Network is the foundation on which Connected Healthcare is built–it is the connectivity that brings together all aspects of individual care, from initial outreach of patient to provider through to care of patient and post-care follow-up. Further, it is the connectivity that brings together health data on individuals for research and decisions on population health. The greater the information available to first responders, doctors, nurses, researchers, and other medical professionals, the better the overall care provided to individual patients, as well as the broader public. The accurate and nimble sharing of health data drives meaningful health policy. To enable this information flow and the rapidly expanding ecosystem of care models, processes, systems, and devices, all members of the healthcare community need network that is flexible, programmable, scalable, reliable, and cloud-centric, which provides the controls they need for cybersecurity and individual privacy, and which they can manage easily. This is NaaS.

With NaaS, care organizations should be able to remove themselves to a great extent from the business of managing and securing network, things that require scarce and specialized skills, so they can focus on their core mission of providing individual and public health. Their healthcare reference architecture should focus on getting the right information to the right medical professionals at the right times to enhance patient outcomes and increase operational efficiency. The approach should address all levels of the healthcare system, from individuals using consumer devices to track health data through to primary care, emergency responder treatments, hospital interventions, and public health policies. NaaS can help solve many challenges confronting healthcare, such as access, costs, and quality, and lead to the realization of 4P medicine (Predictive, Preventive, Personalized, Participative).

So, can every care organization simply plug in NaaS and start using it today? Yes and no. Each care organization must start from their own context and pursue their unique vision. It will need to approach implementing a new healthcare reference architecture as a journey. On this journey, it should look for a trusted partner with which to travel from its network of today to the futureproof network it needs for tomorrow.

In this series, we will take a closer look at the steps care organizations can take to leverage a new healthcare reference architecture and NaaS to build a connected healthcare ecosystem, whether starting with the basics, or on the forefront of innovation. We will provide a clear picture of NaaS technologies and, most importantly, discuss how to enable specific healthcare use cases. In our next installment, we will start at the beginning, with the basic network, the challenges it poses, and the means for care organizations to overcome them.

The author, Brett Barganz, is a Solutions Executive, for Connected Healthcare, at Verizon. Brett has expertise in leading public service organizations through their visions of change, especially technology transformation for Network as a Service and Connected Healthcare. 

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Connected Healthcare part 1:

An introduction to Network as a Service

Connected Healthcare part 2:

Moving from a Basic Network to an Innovative Network

Connected Healthcare part 3:

Shifting to an Efficient Network with Network as a Service

Connected Healthcare part 4:

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Connected Healthcare part 5:

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Connected Healthcare part 6:

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