Improving patient
experience through

Author: Megan Williams

For all the attention virtual visits have gotten over the last few months, the potential for tele-capabilities to drive operational response and efficiency cannot be overlooked. Telemedicine enables non-patient-facing applications, including robotics, advanced image processing and higher-powered uses of artificial intelligence. These applications can facilitate cost reduction, improved scalability and interoperability, advanced data analytics, and new levels of personal control over patient data—all of which can work toward improving patient experience.

Healthcare leaders interested in exploring these applications will need to consider a fresh approach to IT architecture that's powered by cloud and edge computing and enhanced by the potential of 5G.

The cloud and telemedicine

Telemedicine needs the cloud. On-premises applications involve enormous amounts of data for sending dense medical images and supporting real-time communication between millions of increasingly sophisticated digital health devices. The answer to this challenge has traditionally been to rely on the computing resources and flexibility of cloud architecture. Unfortunately, the centralized, multi-tenant cloud has brought its own challenges regarding data latency and privacy. It turns out, telemedicine doesn’t just need the capacity of cloud computing; it needs real-time relay as well. While some industries can tolerate lags in these areas, applications like robotic surgery require extremely low latency rates.

Many organizations have realized that progress lies in bringing things closer to home through edge computing. The "edge cloud" in particular makes promises that traditional, on-premises infrastructure couldn't keep: lower costs to maintain, the ability to keep current with new data requirements, and lower risk to patient data from cyber attacks and insider slip-ups.

The move to edge computing supports improving patient experience by leveraging innovation and prioritizing security, but it's also a potential strain on established technologies. This is where 5G, with its low latency rates, can be especially valuable. Edge computing and the lower latency rates inherent with 5G help bring the cloud closer to where healthcare happens. As a result, providers can accelerate their journey to a telemedicine strategy that fully embraces the potential of AI, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) and the advanced analytics that support the patient experience of the future.

Are IT systems up to the task?

Hospitals and health systems around the country are using hybrid cloud and near-cloud capabilities to power some of their most important initiatives. Think of using the IoMT to generate real-time patient information and avert acute incidences for patients earlier than they've ever experienced. This only happens when IT systems can optimize a balance of efficiency and security and settle on the right-sized application of telehealth, cloud, edge and 5G technologies. With millions of devices functioning in hospitals across the country—US hospitals average 10-15 medical devices per bed—this refined approach to IT architecture will offer critical performance that traditional cloud architecture simply can't accommodate.

Right now, most hospitals cannot tell when their equipment is failing, how often it's being used or even where individual devices are physically located. If these devices are securely and privately connected to the edge cloud, hospitals can monitor them. This leads to better management of costs and operations, as hospitals have the opportunity to optimize equipment use, track the location of machines and predict any maintenance or replacement needs.

AI applications function in a similar dynamic, with the potential to predict equipment failure before catastrophe occurs and even sift through images to achieve faster and more accurate diagnoses—goals further enabled by edge cloud architecture.

Stepping into a cloud computing based telemedicine service

There's little to be gained from chasing after a shiny new innovation for its own sake—hospitals and health systems interested in cloud and edge computing should first pinpoint which existing strategic goals have the highest potential to support patients. Accomplishing this in the most effective way possible will require awareness of certain elements, including:

  • Reliable cloud providers that can support the level of business continuity and disaster recovery needed.
  • Security measures that align with risks, both current and future.
  • An understanding of normal data traffic patterns that could point to potential malware threats and aid detection of breaches.
  • A well-paced transition process that begins with less complex and less sensitive data (such as payroll or email information) to facilitate a slow and measured shift.

Healthcare technology leaders should also familiarize themselves with multi-access edge (MEC) computing and mobile edge computing as they work toward finding an architecture that best leverages the cloud and enabling telemedicine capabilities to improve patient experience.

Find out how to help protect your network and patient data with Verizon Secure Cloud Interconnect.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.