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Healthcare sector faces unhealthy data overload

Sector must focus on efficiency, visibility and security or risk significant digital transformation slow down.

As healthcare organizations scrambled to cope with huge surges in patient numbers in the wake of the pandemic, the past year has seen a major step change in the adoption of technology and digital services. But with World Health Day, any progress they have made in their digital transformation risks being washed away by the deluge of resulting data.

According to research by Aruba, a HPE company, as of last year the healthcare sector was among the furthest ahead in terms of its adoption of advanced technologies and the sense of urgency it felt around this. Around three quarters of healthcare IT leaders had started to implement trials or applications in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) (74%), Internet of Things (IoT) (76%) and machine learning (71%). 

But it was also one of the sectors struggling most with the data this new technology is producing. A third (33%) of IT leaders in healthcare said there was too much data for their systems to handle, and that they could not process the data they collected quickly enough to act (32%).

To get a handle on all this data and underpin long-term digital transformation in healthcare, a new eBook by Aruba, ’Taking healthcare to the Edge’, lays out three key areas of focus for healthcare organizations – providing a clear roadmap to setting up the right network for future success.

Step 1: Processing data efficiency

In order to process data efficiently healthcare organizations must follow it to the Edge of the network, capturing it in real-time at its source versus transferring it back to a centralized hub. Our research showed that 86% of health IT leaders identified the need to implement integrated systems to handle data at the Edge of the network as urgent, 71% are already using or trialing Edge technologies and 74% are delivering new outcomes as a result.These include equipping healthcare providers with improved tools and applications, ensuring continuous availability of patient data at the point of care and using IoT sensors to continuously monitor patient data in real-time and generate early-warning notifications at bedside.

Step 2: Analyzing data intelligently

Capturing all that data is one thing, but being able to act on it is something else entirely. That is why there is a growing role for AI to help convert disparate data point into insights for diagnosis, patient care and pharmaceutical development – but also support IT teams with network troubleshooting and issues resolution to avoid any costly downtime or damage the user experience. Even before the pandemic around three quarters (74%) of IT leaders in healthcare were either trialing or running AI applications on their network to deliver powerful insight.

Step 3: Storing data securely

Against a backdrop of rising IoT use in hospitals and homes, healthcare organizations are having to police growing levels of device and app connectivity. And this is a big worry for healthcare IT leaders, with 61% saying that connecting IoT devices at the Edge would make their business more vulnerable. Aruba believes it is critical for healthcare organizations to put the right solutions in place to make sure highly sensitive healthcare data is protected and that they maintain the necessary consumer trust for the system to continue on its path of radical transformation.  

A Zero Trust approach to security is part of the answer here, but network visibility and device identification also become key – providing a single-pane-of-glass view of increasingly fragmented networks and giving IT teams the ability to grant differentiated levels of data access according to device or user group.

“During the pandemic, healthcare organizations accelerated their use of digital tools and solutions out of necessity. Approachesthat had previously only been trialed or never attempted were deployed for lack of alternative,” explains Morten Illum, VP EMEA of Aruba. “With choices set to open up thanks to the vaccine and a return to ‘normal’, healthcare providers will find themselves at a point of inflection. They have a tremendous opportunity to make changes now to provide fundamentally superior digital services in the future. But either they find a way to get a handle on the information flow in and out their systems, or they risk a rapid reversal of momentum.

“That is why it is critical that the sector evolves its network capabilities to ensure it has the infrastructure and solutions in place to support the next-generation technologies and experiences that will define their organization’s digital transformation in 2021 and beyond.”

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