Technology is transforming the way people shop, bank and travel, and perhaps one of its next big challenges is to make major inroads into how they receive healthcare. But reports on progress in the area of healthcare and technology uptake are conflicting.
According to global consultants McKinsey, based on their healthcare research released in 2019, “The adoption of digitally enabled tools for diagnosis, treatment, and management… has been modest”. On the other hand, German-based global consultancy firm Roland Berger, in the same year, released a study entitled “Future of Health: An industry goes digital – faster than expected”.
According to the 2019 Roland Berger paper, in which 400 international healthcare experts were asked to predict the medium to long-term changes in healthcare, the healthcare market could change dramatically between now and 2025. And today perhaps, the advent of the COVID-19 coronavirus will speed up the changes even further.
“These two papers,” notes Marcel Fouché, networking and storage general manager at value-added distributor, Networks Unlimited Africa, “were both published last year, and the data was gathered by the global consultancies before the COVID-19 pandemic had arrived on the international stage, causing a general uptick in the use of technology and work.”
“It is definitely plausible to propose that, since the onset of the pandemic around the world, the healthcare arena will also need to embrace digital transformation more quickly, in the same way that corporations had to fast-track remote working for their employees in order to keep the wheels of commerce turning.”
Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how it operates and delivers value to customers.
ProLabs, a global leader in optical networking infrastructure, is ready to play its part in fast-tracking digital challenges in the healthcare industry. The company, which is distributed in sub-Saharan Africa by Networks Unlimited Africa, notes in a recent article that network operators must: “…race to expand processing power to withstand the astounding surge in patients and medical data, further exacerbated by the shift of care from offline to online using telehealth services to deliver care virtually during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Alkesh Patel, SVP EMEA & India from ProLabs, notes, “Countries like the United States and Britain have, during the past decade, invested vast sums of money in network infrastructure technology to modernise the use of data in the healthcare sector. One of the reasons for this is to implement electronic health records, to enable those in the healthcare system to provide accurate and complete information about patients, allowing doctors real-time access to data such as a patient’s current medication, allergies and test results.”
“This means,” says Fouché, “that a tremendous amount of data is collected and stored by connected medical devices, for example, imaging devices. This surge in patients’ medical data creates the need to expand the processing power of the networks. Additionally, at the same time, we have seen a global rise in medical practitioners offering virtual healthcare as a result of the pandemic, for example, general practitioner and specialist consultations, as another means of trying to limit and contain the spread of the virus.”
“The end result is a dire need for high-speed reliable internet provision, as well as the ability to process the bandwidth and data application via the healthcare provider’s core network. As ProLabs points out, hospitals need to keep running, and downtime can result in reduced care quality and efficiency.”
ProLabs, therefore, advises: “Hospitals accelerating their network capabilities should close these gaps by building on infrastructure that is already in place.”
The company offers many types of network/IT upgrades including:
- 10G access network upgrades, to increase speed and efficiency.
- Upgrades from the network’s edge to its core.
- Fibre patch cables, to maximise a hospital’s networks by maximising the fibre infrastructure with the right cabling that can support high-speed bandwidth network applications.
- Server memory upgrades, to handle increased data and application response times.
“In an increasingly technological world, we need to remember that patients and their care should remain at the centre of the healthcare industry. At the same time, the fastest access to the most data allows for the personalisation and optimisation of the healthcare practitioner / patient relationship.
“Just as the world has already experienced with shopping, banking and travel, so we now also need to see a significant uptake with technology and people’s experience of healthcare. This arguably begins with the capacity and speed of the networks,” concludes Fouché.