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Significant digital transformation is underway in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. It’s covering patient care, financial systems, compliance, security and processes.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digitalization in this industry, and innovative approaches have now become part of regular healthcare delivery because of their business benefits and improvements to patient outcomes.

A resilient and secure network plays a vital role in this environment: healthcare providers are relying more heavily on digital technologies for patient record-keeping, telemedicine applications and remote consultations, state-of-the-art treatment methods and compliance requirements. NTT’s 2022–23 Global Network Report found that 94% of organizations in the healthcare sector expect their network dependency to grow in the next two years.

This growing reliance on digital and cloud technologies is also improving the patient experience with digitalized in-person diagnostics and treatments, and driving efficiencies to help manage excessive costs that have long plagued the industry.

Digitalization is revolutionizing healthcare

New digital infrastructure is laying the foundation for this explosion of innovation in healthcare.

IoT devices are making remote health monitoring possible, including the real-time intake of medical information and care from anywhere. AI is helping medical professionals to understand diseases and cures in new ways, while augmented and virtual reality unlock digital insights into health scenarios for better predictions and prevention strategies.

These technologies are generating massive amounts of data that support medical decisions, new protocols and early disease-detection methods, among other uses.

However, the network must be fast enough to support machine learning and predictive analytics based on this data, and secure enough to counter cyberthreats and privacy breaches.

Demands on digital healthcare platforms are high

Today’s digital healthcare platforms must combine medical devices, patient management, remote monitoring, telemedicine and telehealth with high-definition video. And in an industry where trust is paramount, these services, systems, applications and platforms need to enable transparency and privacy.

Also, communication with back-end systems must be accurate and reliable, and front-end-facing services secure by design. IT infrastructure must securely underpin and intertwine with digital ecosystems at the core, not as additional or reactive layers.

Obstacles to integration in the digital healthcare ecosystem

But while modern networks are fast becoming the blueprint for connecting the digital healthcare ecosystem in this way, there are some challenges. According to the Global Network Report, finding talented, skilled workers, managing data security and getting multiple service providers to work together are the three most significant challenges to optimizing network infrastructure.

The healthcare industry has generally trailed other sectors in going digital. Limited access to IT knowledge and expertise continues to play a role in this lag, slowing the pace of digital transformation. Likewise, skepticism regarding technology in healthcare and questions about security, trust and reliability are legitimate obstacles.

Combine these concerns with the costs and inefficiencies associated with a fragmented approach, including at the technology-provider level, and the frustrations begin to add up.

A new network approach delivers tighter security

As the health industry looks to advance digitalization and adapt to new conditions and expectations, implementing the proper infrastructure and network must be front and center.

In our experience, many healthcare providers have a network that has accumulated huge technical debt, with a high number of end-of-life devices unable to receive the latest security patches. This poses a significant risk because a network is only as strong as its weakest link.

By following a modern approach to managing their network, healthcare providers can obtain additional visibility to identify devices that are due for renewal or software patching. Live dashboards can show them the results of continuous scanning and assessment of the network and provide advisories on addressing vulnerabilities. This makes the network more secure by lowering the risk of internal or external threats.

Healthcare providers’ networks usually have many connected devices from a range of suppliers, and it’s often easy for external users to plug in their devices and gain access to the network. These circumstances require end-to-end network security using zero trust network access principles. 

Turning to the network to solve user-experience challenges

Delivering an unparalleled patient experience is a top priority. Like many other industries, the healthcare sector comprises multiple complex, disparate and often siloed systems. This can prevent access to the right tools, data, resources and applications.

Rethinking the approach to digital infrastructure in healthcare starts with shifting the focus to the user experience – whether it’s for patients, doctors, administrators or other parties. To do this successfully, we have to gain a holistic view of the network and what’s happening across it.

A network-management platform that uses leading AI and security technologies, and can scale to accommodate even the broadest set of requirements, is a pathway to overcoming some of these challenges. So is partnering with a network infrastructure provider that has both the platform and management expertise. It’s through such a partnership that the full benefits of a modern network can be realized. The result? Greater resilience, improved efficiencies and a user experience that facilitates, rather than hinders, better care.

Learn more about NTT’s Managed Campus Networks.