While a recent study by SAP Center for Business Insight shows that digital transformation in healthcare is growing, the slow pace of that growth can be directly attributed how healthcare organizations are grappling with some of the most significant IT challenges. While the use and plethora of digital platforms have become standard, the resulting big data, the need for interoperability and real-time analytics, as well as the need for greater mobility and security, are all setting the stage for more challenges moving forward.
The progress of digital transformation in healthcare brings a broad set of new IT challenges. For the majority of healthcare environments, this transformation is punctuated by three primary IT challenges that revolve around big data, security and compliance, and mobile health. By looking at these three challenges, healthcare organizations can see that they are interrelated and then identify solutions that open the door to innovation, agility, security, and most significant of all, improved health outcomes.
Leveraging Big Data to Improve Quality of Care and Reduce Costs
Data in healthcare is growing at an exponential rate, which leaves organizations searching for storage, access, and security solutions. As cloud use grows along with big data; access, security, and storage concerns become more acute.
According to a 2017 HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey, 65 percent of study respondents currently utilize the cloud or cloud services, with most usage-centered on clinical application and data hosting, data recovery and backup, and EHR application hosting. As more healthcare providers make the transition to a multi-cloud approach, cloud management becomes a definite challenge
Multi-cloud environments in healthcare create possibilities for placing applications in the right environment for access, security, and storage while also creating the chances of needing app development. The challenge is that these multi-cloud environments can present management challenges without a management and monitoring platform that provides visibility and control. Moreover, managing and facilitating the application development lifecycle from DevOps to security increases the difficulties.
Multi-cloud management platforms can deliver the tools for configuring, provisioning, monitoring, and optimizing all types of public and private cloud services. This gives organizations a means to accomplish security and compliance across the entire cloud infrastructure. Multi-cloud management also supports:
- Application performance monitoring
- Governance and policy management
- Operations and log analytics
- Automation optimization
The big data sets that come from combining EHR data with other technology and outside data sources create enormous potential for healthcare operations optimization. Predictive analytics can leverage data from multiple sources for improved patient care and operational efficiency. With large amounts of structured and unstructured data, storage and access challenges stand in the way of making the most of analytics.
Big Data Solutions
As one of many viable ways to address big data challenges, object storage is growing in acceptance as a means of faster data access and retrieval by creating a non-hierarchical storage pool structure. By using unique identifiers, object storage can retrieve data so that it can be stored anywhere in the storage pool, which facilitates the use of the data for analytics.
Object storage can quickly meet the big data needs derived from medical and IoT devices as well as HIT systems. IT also facilitates a constant record change history as data changes happen in real time for ongoing reference and compliance needs.
Multi-cloud management platforms in conjunction with multi-cloud application platforms, such as Pivotal Cloud Foundry, provide solutions to IT challenges in healthcare by delivering agile ways for IT and DevOps teams to manage multiple clouds through:
- Supporting collaborative governance
- Automating provisioning through the use of repeatable, standardized processes, tools, and SLAs
- Providing advanced, predictive performance analytics and capacity management
- Supporting agile app development
These solutions also have a profound impact on other challenges in healthcare, such as security and compliance, as well as the need for more comprehensive, agile mobility and communications solutions in healthcare.
Revamping Security Strategies
Attaining the promise of big data, the cloud, and analytics hinges on meeting the challenge of security for regulatory compliance. All-encompassing security monitoring that provides IT managers with a total view of the entire network from one control location will become more important as more threats to the actual data arise. Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PFC) can play an important role in application access and security through isolation segmentation so that apps and workloads in the cloud can be segmented for security protocols and next-gen firewalls.
Location security and system access are major IT challenges as healthcare environments move to the cloud and data repositories connected to EHR and other HIT systems reach higher levels of interoperability. The implementation of identity access management that enables highly specific control and monitoring of who can access what systems, data, cloud services, and apps are crucial to security and meeting regulatory compliance in the age of HIPPA.
According to a recent HIMSS Communication Workflow study, mobile integration challenges are holding back higher order use of mobile devices in healthcare for detailed clinical care focus. Several hospital and healthcare facilities have implemented unified threat management software, alongside firewalls, so they can monitor the proper performance of applications on mobile devices.
While this supports HIPAA compliance for third-party application access, the sheer number of apps accessing the network as well as BYOD users infinitely compounds the health IT challenges of data access and security. There are a number of ways that healthcare enterprises can secure BYOD including:
- Mobile use guideline education
- Mobile device management
- Application-layer firewall
- Unified threat management
These devices will need to be synced to existing security systems.
Data transport across the network poses additional challenges as federal law requires that a healthcare institution deploy a single network to handle the bandwidth created by all these mobile devices. That includes having the means to secure all of the information passing through the wireless LAN.
As healthcare organizations deal with more mobile cloud apps as well as native apps, a combination of mobile device management and the use of PCF third-party apps can provide the identity access management support to meet the increasing security vulnerabilities of mobile health and BYOD.
In healthcare organizations, digital transformation takes many forms, which requires an understanding of the unique nature of each environment and its needs. That requires
cloud-native application platform partners with cloud management and object storage solutions that are armed with the customization and system expertise to overcome these IT challenges.