The rise of smart technology to improve patient care

Matt Roberts, Global Practice Lead, Healthcare and Life Sciences at Juniper Networks, discusses how digital healthcare can build a healthier future

The National Healthcare Service is one of the UK’s most prized and treasured assets. However, with 18.6% of the population aged 65 or over, the enormous strain and pressures on the NHS are being felt now more than ever. New challenges and treatments are emerging for a variety of conditions, and this ultimately demands more from healthcare providers, medical staff and their entire ecosystem. 

To make this already tricky task even more challenging, patient care is being hindered by legacy IT architecture getting in the way of all aspects of operations. But in the not-too-distant future, these processes and the way healthcare is viewed are likely to fundamentally change. Smart healthcare will be implemented to eliminate organisational inefficiencies and ultimately improve patient care. 

The rise of smart healthcare

Smart healthcare itself can be used to describe a range of technologies that rely on connectivity to treat patients. For example, internet of medical things (IoMT) technologies can be used to enable remote patient monitoring, screening and treatment across the spectrum of care. From a management perspective, this means that the use of these devices can be optimised, ultimately bringing down running costs. Location services can also be used to allow a facility such as a hospital to run more efficiently. An example of this could be an older person who needs a wheelchair entering a hospital – an interactive digital system could have this delivered quickly, without the need to go looking for a healthcare assistant or porter. Location-based tech can also be used to improve security in facilities, such as preventing flight risk patients from leaving a certain area or alerting personnel if a dangerous or life-threatening situation were to arise. When implemented across an entire system or facility, digital systems such as these have the power to fundamentally improve working practices in a hospital, drastically boost staff morale and ultimately save lives.

From a patient perspective, digitalised healthcare will allow individuals to take more control of their medical decisions through apps and other user-friendly technology. Online healthcare systems will be more interactive, similar to how online banking systems work currently. This will allow patients to become advocates for their own health, implementing lifestyle changes before they become symptomatic diseases. 

Giving patients better access to their own medical records reduces the need for unnecessary appointments, saving time and money. It is also more likely to encourage them to take note of their own lifestyle habits and make changes. Early risk indicators can also be flagged using medical sensors such as smart pills or wearable devices. This can give a medical professional oversight of a patient’s medical status without them even having to come into a practice. These kinds of sensors can be used for non-invasive examinations and monitoring for various ailments. In some cases, for example with heart attacks, early warning signs of heartbeat irregularity can lead patients to seek immediate medical attention, which may be lifesaving. Wearable devices and smart pills are also more palatable to patients who may avoid seeking medical attention for fear of examinations such as blood tests. 

Inside a digital healthcare environment

In a medical setting, the functionality of tech can be a life saver. In a digital healthcare environment, continuous availability of life-critical systems and applications are crucial to keep people alive who may be on life support or breathing through ventilators. As so many devices are always connected, an AI-powered network is essential to ensure solid data analysis and to ensure continuous operations throughout the facility.

Another crucial aspect of running a successful medical system is effective data management and storage. In a digitalised health environment, critical medical records must be protected to avoid leaks or hacks which could easily be exploited for fraudulent purposes. However, this security should also not limit the necessary individuals from having access to records when needed, such as when a patient has been referred. An effective data management tool would also be necessary to keep track of the patients eligible for routine services such as vaccinations. With the NHS holding the medical data of 65mn people, the right data management solutions are crucial to ensure that the service is delivered to those who need it most. 

Digital healthcare is the next obvious step to future-proof medical services. This will enable facilities to run more efficiently, saving time, money, frustration, and most importantly, patient lives. Although there will be initial investment required to replace legacy systems, these technologies have the potential to fundamentally transform how healthcare is delivered. Better digital solutions can also improve working conditions for staff, which again fundamentally boosts service offered. To champion smarter healthcare, healthcare decision makers must be bold in their choices and not shy away from investment that can ultimately save the lives of patients. 

The network plays a vital role in keeping an organisation healthy. It functions like the vascular and immune systems of the human body, transporting, actioning and protecting critical information 24/7/365. A healthy network allows organisations to scale and support new applications and technologies that can assist in driving better patient outcomes and experiences. A highly efficient, truly integrated, secure and flexible network enables the transformation agenda across all lines of operations.

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