COMMENT: Cloud networking: A shot in the arm for healthcare

Dahwood Ahmed of Extreme Networks looks at how, particularly during the current pandemic, cloud-based networking solutions are becoming an increasingly-appealing choice for providing the intelligent, adaptive and secure foundation which hospitals need to realise digital transformation and achieve mission-critical initiatives

Cloud computing could help the NHS in the next stage of its digitalisation journey

Today’s healthcare organisations are at a turning point.

Digital transformation is in full swing and is revolutionising how hospitals operate.

Clinicians are empowered with innovative tools, the patient experience is becoming increasingly personal, and overall efficiencies are being rapidly unlocked.

Cloud adoption across the hospital and clinical environment has been an important part of this trend, providing infrastructure that is more scalable, efficient and futureproofed.

As the global healthcare sector sees expenditure continuing to rise against a backdrop of squeezed budgets, skills challenges, and an ageing population, cloud-based networking solutions are becoming an increasingly-appealing choice

As the global healthcare sector sees expenditure continuing to rise against a backdrop of squeezed budgets, skills challenges, and an ageing population, cloud-based networking solutions are becoming an increasingly-appealing choice for providing the intelligent, adaptive and secure foundation which hospitals need to realise digital transformation and achieve mission-critical initiatives.

Empowering people with performance

A fundamental appeal of cloud technologies is that they allow for managing scale with fewer resources.

Let us use the analogy of a driver operating a car.

In older vehicles, drivers have to manage multiple tasks simultaneously. As well as operating the car itself, they have to plan their route, mind traffic, and obey the rules of the road.

“Newer vehicles, by contrast, have inbuilt technologies and systems, from GPS to cruise control and sensors, to automate some of these tasks and empower a more-streamlined experience.

The same is true of cloud technologies in a clinical setting.

Behind the scenes there is great pressure on healthcare IT teams to manage the day-to-day running of an on-premise network infrastructure, not to mention the increasing volume of machines and devices connected to it.

Cloud and automation promise to relieve this day-to-day pressure and enable IT departments to focus on strategic mission-critical tasks.

The latest cloud solutions not only enable a shift beyond basic network management and into the realms of real-time innovation and insight, but offer increased availability, flexibility, and reduced operational complexity.

By performing just as a GPS would, they can enable IT personnel to get from A to B more efficiently and effectively, while also delivering a more-seamless experience.

Empowering healthcare institutions to only pay for what they use, combined with the ability to scale and increase their investment over time, cloud technologies can deliver the level of operational and budgetary flexibility organisations need today

Another advantage of moving to cloud solutions is a financial one. Simply put, cloud technologies offer a considerable return on investment as they move organisations from a CapEx to an OpEx model.

Empowering healthcare institutions to only pay for what they use, combined with the ability to scale and increase their investment over time, cloud technologies can deliver the level of operational and budgetary flexibility organisations need today.

Perhaps more powerful still, they hold the potential of reducing financial downtime as they can be deployed almost instantly in comparison to physical hardware.

Instead of configuring devices and ensuring they are all connected, the cloud can automate this process centrally to streamline the rollout and eliminate the time and costs associated with transitioning to a new technology system.

According to our own research, 88% of healthcare organisations to date have reduced the cost of software using the cloud.

Will cloud solutions help healthcare organisations to simplify, secure and futureproof their operations for years to come?

The next generation

The rapid increase in IoMT adoption among healthcare organisations presents opportunities and threats in equal measure.

From giving patients greater control over their treatment, to alleviating some of the cost, access, and care coordination challenges currently facing the healthcare industry; IoMT is poised to transform how we keep people healthy. But it also poses significant challenges as the increasing number of devices on the organisation’s network can act as a gateway to security risks.

By making it more difficult to track, monitor and control the performance of devices on the network, IoMT - if not managed correctly - may enable vulnerabilities to inevitably be introduced which go undetected.

This is especially pressing considering most medical organisations are still using legacy devices that are particularly vulnerable to cyber attack.

The latest cloud solutions not only enable a shift beyond basic network management and into the realms of real-time innovation and insight, but offer increased availability, flexibility, and reduced operational complexity

However, this is also where the cloud wins.

By contrast to on-premise solutions, the cloud can provide full device inventory of what is connected to the network and what actions they are performing.

It can also allow policy-based controls to restrict a device’s network access based on user, device type, location and time of day.

This automates much of the network security instead of being dependent on the vigilance of security teams, and capabilities will become even more exciting when we consider how next-generation cloud solutions are expected to build on them.

Third-generation and fourth-generation solutions are already offering software-driven infrastructures that continuously learn and self optimise.

Promising to radically transform how businesses manage their networks, enabling a shift beyond basic network management and into the realms of real-time innovation and insight; they offer increased availability, flexibility, and reduced operational complexity to support ever-increasing connectivity demands.

Healthcare organisations of today are taking great strides in digital transformation and the rate of cloud adoption in healthcare has been steadily increasing.

For forward-looking healthcare facilities, cloud-driven networks may be the shot in the arm that will empower healthcare organisations to radically simplify, secure and futureproof themselves in the years to come

Cloud networks have been tried and tested and IT departments increasingly value the agility and flexibility they offer. Moreover, major advancements in next-generation cloud infrastructure are underway meaning these advantages will only increase in the future for those investing now.

For forward-looking healthcare facilities, cloud-driven networks may be the shot in the arm that will empower healthcare organisations to radically simplify, secure and futureproof themselves in the years to come.

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