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How the Edge to reshape the world of healthcare

The healthcare industry has reached a crisis point

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By:  Jacob Chacko Regional Business Head – Middle East, Saudi & South Africa (MESA) HPE ARUBA 

How the Edge to reshape the world of healthcare

The healthcare industry has reached a crisis point. According to a recent Deloitte report, global healthcare expenditure is expected to increase from $7 trillion to $10 trillion by 2022, as the cost of providing services in every country across the world rises steeply. Combine this with our ever-expanding (and ageing) global population and the steady increase in average life expectancy (rising by 5.5 years between 2000 and 2016), and it is perhaps no wonder that current healthcare infrastructures are struggling to cope under the sheer volume of what they are expected to support.

From 5G-enabled remote operations to patient apps, digital innovations are being deployed to try and mitigate these challenges. However, one missing piece of the technology puzzle required to bring these key developments together and ensure the healthcare sector can keep scaling up – that can be found at the Edge.

We developed a book with Fast Future which aimed to uncover the wealth of possibilities set to be unlocked by Edge technologies over the next 3-5 years. Defined as technologies that allow data processing by devices at the Edge of networks, HPE Aruba has identified this as the next frontier. Moving processes and applications to the edge of the network will be imperative to enable the ongoing digital transformation of industries worldwide, supporting everything from mainstream personalisation to enhanced real-time insight and faster product and service innovation.

And the healthcare industry is no exception, with several current developments already hinting at the Edge opportunities. So, here are three ways in which the Edge is set to reshape the world of healthcare.

Patient-Generated Health Data

IoT medical devices such as wearable sensors, blood glucose monitors, and healthcare apps are becoming increasingly common. In fact, US hospitals are already estimated to have as many as 10 to 15 IoT devices per bed. All of these devices are collecting huge amounts of Patient-Generated Health Data, allowing medical professionals to diagnose problems better and monitor health over long periods of time. However, there is no point in collecting all this data. You can’t immediately use it, which is where the Edge comes into its own.

When using connected devices, clinicians need to access information as quickly as possible to make well-informed medical decisions – for an industry where a few seconds can literally be the difference between life or death, any lag in delivery could be absolutely critical to the patient. By processing data at the edge of the network rather than transporting it back to the centre, Edge technologies can eliminate unnecessary latency and deliver far speedier results than traditional architectures.

This means that healthcare IT architectures can still benefit from gathering health-related data while also getting immediate, real-time analytics to predict and respond to health emergencies. IoT medical devices can analyse a person’s current condition and send alerts when anomalies are detected, allowing rapid response times that may well save their lives.

We can see one example of how real-time analytics and rapid responses enabled by Edge technologies are already being used to improve care for patients in the treatment of diabetes in some countries. In this case, a sensor is embedded inside a patient to measure insulin levels and automatically controls an insulin pump within their body. This innovation effectively regulates the care and can help prevent incidents that might result in hospitalisation or additional costs.

Remote healthcare

Conducting data processing close to the patient is essential for those in remote areas. And without Edge technologies, the healthcare industry is less poised to support these places. For example, lacking an internet connection prevents medical providers from accessing centralised databases of patient data.

Portable IoT healthcare equipment developed by edge computing companies has the ability to gather, store, generate, and analyze critical patient data without needing to be in constant contact with a network infrastructure. Patients with wearable IoT medical devices can be diagnosed quickly and effectively on-site. The information gathered from them can be fed back into the central servers whenever connections are re-established. By interfacing with an edge data centre, IoT healthcare devices can extend the reach of existing networks, enabling medical personnel to access critical patient data even in poor connectivity areas.

Not only will Edge technologies’ remote capabilities help rural areas, but they also have huge implications for emergency services. Edge solutions will allow for on-demand provisioning and continuous tracking of mobile healthcare units and accelerated diagnosis at accident scenes to improve stability treatment before transfer to hospital.

Driving new revenue models and cost savings

From an operational perspective, interconnectivity is another potential source of cost savings. Medical providers have long been plagued by incompatible systems and burdensome recordkeeping that could be all but eliminated by networks of IoT medical devices and Edge technology applications that communicate quickly and easily across organizational boundaries. 

Conclusion

The ability to monitor patient data at the point of care and improve remote services through Edge technologies can transform patient outcomes while also enhancing health professionals’ ability to deliver efficient care.

In short, the healthcare industry stands to benefit immensely from Edge technologies. And with rising costs posing an ongoing threat to people’s access to healthcare services – these innovations, and their ability to boost efficiencies and deliver better value, should be embraced quickly.

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