If someone fell ill in Medieval Times, the most popular remedy was applying leeches to the skin and drawing out the “bad blood”. In those days, doctors believed diseases were cured simply by removing infected body parts. But as medical science evolved, miraculous new developments forever changed patient evaluation and treatment. 

Healthcare is an industry defined by innovation and change. Rene Laennec invented the stethoscope to amplify heart and lung sounds – once inaudible to the human ear. Physicians later invented the first sphygmomanometer to alter the invasive nature of blood pressure measurement. And as the industry embraces digital technology, physicians, doctors, and hospitals are once again on the cusp of a new era of transformation.

Sparked by the digital age, an unprecedented volume of Big Data is churned out every second of every day. From blood pressure read-outs and test results to real-time, on-demand information generated by personal Fitbit technology – more medical data sets are available today than at any other point in history. This data explosion is set to re-shape healthcare, with industry analysts estimating the market’s worldwide data analytics segment reaching $35 billion by 2022. That’s because healthcare professionals are finally realizing the power for advanced technology to drive better patient care and new cost efficiencies.

The Growing Importance of EHR

Electronic Health Records (EHR) are some of the most powerful tools available to providers today. EHRs not only contain such critical data as illness history, known allergies, and available test results, but detail can be seamlessly managed across a patient’s entire medical ecosystems. Real-time collaboration and communication also facilitate dynamic shared-decision models for providers. In the coming years, EHRs will become increasingly impactful – as information from mobile devices and wearables, like Fitbit, are set to plug directly into practitioner databases.

Deep, real-time analytics empowers hospitals to make decisions on-the-fly and better determine treatment options. Researchers and administrators actively leverage predictive modeling techniques, applying mathematical equations to determine costs or risks associated with healthcare choices. Professionals can also track individual cases across limitless data pools, assigning probabilities to treatment-recovery scenarios.

Beyond actual care, Big Data streamlines the insurance function – analyzing everything from co-pays to deductibles. Healthcare organizations can more effectively contain fraud and waste, accessing analytics models to pinpoint duplicate and/or inaccurate claims. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services even estimates it erased more than $200 million in fraud with predictive analytics.

Infrastructure is Critical  

But data is only as effective as the supporting IT infrastructure, as real-time, always-on information requires a powerful and agile environment. This foundation must also meet stringent requirements for security and compliance to align with complex HIPAA and PCI-DSS guidelines. A recent 451 report indicates only a modernized infrastructure is capable of driving flexible healthcare services. More than 50 percent of survey respondents believe IT is the engine that enables required availability, speed and resilience. Unfortunately, many legacy environments just weren’t built with agility and flexibility in mind.

Healthcare providers readily acknowledge challenges associated with inflexible legacy infrastructures – making it difficult to introduce new technology and integrate key data from multiple silos. Across the industry, Cloud services are now filling this void to spur more effective digital transformations. The 451 Research study even shows 75 percent of healthcare organizations name cloud as the most important ingredientl to spur digital transformation – with IT migration the most sought-after IT service.

Whether a hospital requires greater bandwidth for image transfers, health networks are working towards HIPAA compliance, or physicians seek to build more robust communications – a range of emerging technologies can better prepare organizations for this digital transformation.

Solutions like Software-Defined Networking (SDN) are critical to engineering more efficient, cost-effective infrastructures. Leveraging software to automate the configuration of edge routers – moving traffic over private, wireless, and broadband networks – SD-WAN allows providers to keep pace with the dynamic application environment.  The end result is improved flexibility through greater bandwidth, enhanced visibility, and more accurate network control.

Yet another critical area is end-to-end IT security. In a market plagued by breaches and fines for non-compliance, healthcare infrastructures must put security as a priority. Best-in-class security services empower organizations to advance security postures with a cost-effective, focused tools. A unified system of IT security services from a single partner also covers all layers of the IT stack. Healthcare providers are therefore empowered to address active threats through early detection, management and remediation – while aligning for the undefined challenges of tomorrow.

And while the healthcare market won’t resort to using leeches again anytime soon, now is the time for organizations to invest in IT and fully capitalize on the digital age. Why not call on CenturyLink for a consult, and transform your organization today?

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