8 Healthcare IT Network Trends Set to Dominate in 2021
This year, for obvious reasons, a spotlight has been thrown on the healthcare industry as we continue to navigate our way through the global pandemic. With increased investment in research and development in the healthcare space, we are on the cusp of a technological revolution.
From increased IoT capabilities to the role 5G connectivity will play moving forwards, 2021 may well be remembered as a year of unprecedented innovation in the face of the most significant public health threat seen this century.
With that in mind, let’s look a little closer at the eight trends set to shape the industry this year.
#1: Creating Single, Converged Networks
At present, healthcare settings rely on multiple disparate networks that often require continuous upgrading and patching. In fact, 50% of IT professionals in the healthcare industry spend their time upgrading networks and conducting patches. Worse, it’s rare that these networks have interoperability, harming efficiency and productivity right across medical settings.
Given the onset of IoT and 5G, moving to a single, converged network within which all devices operate would dramatically improve efficiency, reliability, and security. The ongoing maintenance schedules will also become simplified and far less involved, reducing operation costs quite considerably.
It’s why 37% of healthcare organizations will move to a converged, cloud-based network this year alone.
#2: 5G In-Building Connectivity
Speaking of 5G, the arrival of in-building network connectivity will dramatically speed up processes within healthcare settings. Hospitals, in particular, are high-traffic environments with tens of devices potentially accessing the network at the same time. It’s no wonder that simple tasks such as sending an email can become a struggle.
The speed and ease of 5G deployment indoors is set to change everything. The lower latency network will have a transformative impact on fields such as telemedicine, patient record management, and real-time medical analysis. Better yet, the installation costs are a fraction of those of Wi-Fi 6.
#3: Data Digitization Management
Patient records, medical charts, and other vital data recorded in a medical setting are still documented on paper before being transferred manually to legacy software programs. Up to 44% of medical providers still use paper charts.
However, with the onset of IoT and lightning-fast network speeds, data digitization management will enter a new era. Doctors, nurses, and administrative staff will increasingly use network-based devices to record vital information that will be immediately available anywhere via cloud-based electronic health records (EHR) software.
It will also allow AI-based programs to analyze millions of data points in real time and recommend actions most likely to deliver the desired outcomes.
This year has already demonstrated the importance of telemedicine in the future. In a world where healthcare delivery needs to adapt to remote settings, telemedicine services facilitate patient-centered, decentralized healthcare.
There is no longer a need to visit a physical healthcare facility to receive treatment, diagnoses, or refills of prescription medication. With four in every ten US adults suffering symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, telemedicine is set to play a critical role in delivering frontline mental health support.
Telemedicine has also dramatically improved patient satisfaction, waiting times, and ease of use. Recent figures show that patients have reported that telemedicine appointments resolved their issues 85% of the time, as opposed to just 64% of the time for in-person appointments.
#5: Visitor and Patient Management
Hospitals and other urgent care settings are incredibly busy. When a single patient comes in, there are several procedures to navigate, including registration, ward allocation, operation or medication, doctor supervision, medicine allocation, and eventually, release.
Upgrades to networking technology along with the introduction of IoT-enabled devices will allow medical providers to automate each step of the patient-management process and digitally track a patient’s progress through the system in real time. These sensor devices can also record critical data such as temperatures, oxygen level, blood pressure, and test results.
All collected data can then be sent to a cloud-based system that, once again, can be accessed at any time from any network-enabled device, enabling effective remote monitoring.
#6: Blockchain Technology
This year has already been a blockbuster year for blockchain, particularly concerning investments. And before the end of the year, the real-world applications of this technology will come to the fore.
In medical settings, the most obvious use of this technology is in the realm of confidential patient data, which is at constant risk due to hackers. Data breaches are among the most significant issues that medical providers face today, and blockchain could well provide the answer by decentralizing patient records and making them virtually impossible to change without patient permission.
With blockchain, you have multiple checkpoints, so the entire data filling and exchanging is done in ultimate secrecy, while patients have better control over this. They can even decide who has access to their records and who can make changes to these.
#7: Access Control
The pandemic has also sharpened minds in the healthcare industry on the issue of access control. While security threats will always remain a feature of our society, it could well be the case that epidemics and local outbreaks of infectious diseases may continue to rise over the next decade and beyond.
During these events, touchless access control systems will play a vital role in halting virus transmission and threats posed by other similar infectious diseases. Being able to remotely operate doors and other entrances is also crucial in the event of a security threat.
The added benefit is that you can seamlessly integrate these systems with in-building 5G networks.
#8: IoT Capabilities
We have already mentioned the role of IoT capabilities in improving the efficiency of the patient and visitor management process. However, that only scratches the surface. IoT technology can deliver a transformative impact on the healthcare sector.
For example, the installation of building-wide IoT sensors can ensure utilities, such as lighting, air conditioning, and heating, are all utilized at optimal levels, leading to dramatic savings in the cost of running healthcare facilities.
The rise in wearable IoT-enabled tech can deliver valuable data to physicians in real-time, whether a patient is in a healthcare setting or not. Consistent unfavorable trends (such as spiraling blood pressure) can be spotted by machine-learning algorithms, and alerts can be sent to doctors so they can take action before it’s too late.
2021 Set to Be a Pivotal Year in Healthcare Technology
The pandemic has heightened interest in healthcare technology and networking capabilities as those in medical settings look to leverage innovative solutions to help them better cope with increasing demand.
Here at NCS, we can help design, install, and deploy a broad spectrum of network solutions, including structured cabling, wireless network infrastructure, and in-building 5G connectivity in healthcare settings.