Healthcare and the edge – a partnership into the future

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Schneider Electric launches new digital ecosystem

Technology plays an all-important role in how today’s healthcare providers handle resources and manage medical centres. Foremost, is the handling of patient safety and comfort, staff shortage, access to real-time data, physical and cybersecurity, and services availability.

With the proliferation of IoT devices in healthcare, more data is generated which drives the need to distribute it efficiently and keep it closer to the user. Fortunately, technology solutions such as edge computing are helping healthcare providers address these challenges while providing new opportunities for better patient care.

Research firm IDC echoes the above: “Edge allows healthcare organisations to roll out new features and to be more responsive”.

Digitising healthcare

Another driving force behind edge computing and its context within the healthcare realm, is digitisation.  Looking at a real-world example; patient information must be kept safe, particularly as time goes by and they are treated at various facilities.

Data must be shared securely and confidentially between healthcare practitioners which in turn allow for collaboration, fast-tracking diagnosis of conditions that can enhance or even save lives.

At some healthcare facilities, theatres are connected and monitored 24/7, onsite or remotely, all thanks to edge computing. For example, in MRI room or theatres, power cannot be interrupted and are protected by UPSs and isolation transformers.

These devices are monitored via displays (in these rooms) and on remote mobile devices, providing critical information to medical personnel that contribute to patient safety.

Medical procedures have advanced to a stage where they are bringing our Sci-Fi dreams to life. Today, surgeons are performing with the help of robots. Also, procedures are being performed in hard-to-reach areas with the help of remote experts.

Machines and humans are working together to find solutions to people’s healthcare challenges. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being employed to deliver solutions in months rather than years. All these solutions require robust networks and edge computing forms a fundamental part of this equation.

Patient care, optimised

Patients’ rooms are also benefiting from technology innovation, contributing to their overall stay that includes improved comfort and elevated care.

Digital footwalls are some of newest ways facilities put patient needs first. These can be used to explore medical records with clinical staff and control their room lighting and temperature. On the other side of the room, in the halls, the digital footwalls keep staff abreast of current care information.

Also, with low voltage (LV) infrastructure becoming fully connected and integrated into the monitored infrastructure, the patient rooms become even more connected. All IT and other LV equipment systems such as HVAC in the patient rooms can be connected and the information traced.

Cybersecurity

Connectivity exposes more attack surfaces to cybercriminals. Every single connected endpoint becomes a potential breach point.  Healthcare facilities must take cybersecurity very seriously; each and every product must have good, embedded security. Products and systems for example must be safeguarded with regular security updates.

People form a vital part of security systems and like any other industry, healthcare must consistently monitor and mitigate cyber threats. These require constant and regular awareness sessions and education in an effort to thwart any social engineering attempts to penetrate the hospital systems.

If anything, digitisation in the healthcare sector will accelerate, all in effort to improve patient satisfaction and enhance clinical workflows. Healthcare facilities will have to implement solutions that deal with cybersecurity while also managing healthcare facilities. These solutions will undoubtedly benefit from computing at the edge.

By George Senzere, solutions architect: Secure Power at Schneider Electric

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