Keep IT simple
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 authorized 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, prioritize devices and applications, reserve or limit bandwidth or blacklist devices.
Network security is a priority – developments in containerization
If it wasn’t before, it’s now very clear that hospitals and care providers are not exempt from the threat of cyberattacks, which can result in stolen data or disrupted operations – just think WannaCry!
Network security is an aspect healthcare providers are struggling with because the traditional approach to infrastructure design is to have separate network silos for different departments – such as bio-medical devices, security, patients and clinicians all on separate subsystems – and there is no overall view of ‘the network’. But this approach is no longer a realistic option.
Connected healthcare devices need to be secured, but expanding separate networks to support all these new devices will be a managerial and financial nightmare. Moving these onto a single IP-based network offers significant maintenance and management benefits, as long as it is deployed in a secure way. One of the core principles behind this is network segmentation – or IoT containerization.
This is a method of creating virtual environments on a single network infrastructure where each virtual IoT ‘container’ can act as its own network, where users can only interact or manage devices within that virtual environment. For example, the security team’s ‘container’ might include the IP cameras and alarm systems and only be accessed and configured by authorized users from that team. As well as creating an optimized environment to run connected healthcare devices, any compromised device won’t spread the threat to other containers, limiting a breach in a worst-case scenario.
Giving healthcare a check-up
There is huge potential for improved connectivity to have a massive impact in healthcare, and help create positive outcomes for patients. Healthcare providers have the opportunity to put the right tools in the hands of caregivers and deploy anetwork infrastructure capable of supporting them. To build optimized care pathways and provide patients with an optimized healthcare journey requires an approach to digital transformation which provides mobility, connectivity and security every step of the way.
Nicole Hill leads the Healthcare division at global networking and communications provider, ALE, and has a goal – to make everyone and everything connect. Connecting patients for a better hospital experience, connecting healthcare professionals to ensure continuity of care and access to patient data, and connecting healthcare facilities to harness the power of the Internet of Things. Here she explains that healthcare is entering a second wave of digitization which moves beyond electronic medical records (EMRs) with technology that touches every step of the patient journey. Now is the time to capitalize on these by creating a strategy for the digital transformation of healthcare providers.