A quiet revolution is underway in the healthcare sector, fuelled by advanced digital technologies and connected technologies. There is no question that hospitals, pharmaceutical firms, and medical device makers are early adopters of the Internet of things (IoT), as they seek to improve operational efficiency and reduce costs, enhance the patient experience, and create new revenue streams.
The healthcare revolution
According to Pankaj Sharma, Executive Vice President, Secure Power Business, Schneider Electric, the healthcare industry is leveraging various connected technologies to enhance patient care and improve safety. The strategies include:
- Electronic medical records: The replacement of paper records with fully digital ones.
- Operating rooms: Next-gen robotics and augmented reality environments so that remote specialists or experts can participate.
- Patient monitoring: Connected medical devices such as pacemakers, connected pumps to relay critical health information to doctors.
- Asset tracking: RFID and wireless technologies for the real-time tracking of medical personnel and equipment.
Of course, connected technologies will not happen by itself, and requires a comprehensive transformation plan to identify, acquire, and integrate the relevant technologies. This might also entail upgrading existing assets to work properly with the new equipment, or extensive integration work to produce the desired healthcare outcomes.
The edge transformation
Like it or not, latency is certainly an issue in many of the healthcare use cases highlighted above. Next-gen robotics in operating rooms, for instance, simply cannot tolerate latency when performing intricate operations during surgery. And with a high volume of patient-generated data from routine examinations to always-on connected devices, the physical distance to backend processing nodes suddenly becomes very important.
Unavoidably, this means that a vital aspect of the digital revolution is a transition to edge computing, putting the backend processing and analytics closer to where the action takes place. By retaining much of the crucial data on the edge of the network, the benefit of maintaining the huge volume of health-related data is retained. At the same time, powerful backend processing that can predict and respond to health emergencies remain available.
Protecting the edge
The rise of edge computing does give rise to another challenge though, this time around the task of management, security, and ensuring the continuous delivery of services at all times of the day (and night). Given that there are probably few or even no IT staff stationed at the edge location, this is harder than it sounds.
Fortunately, various solutions exist to simplify this task. The EcoStruxure platform from Schneider Electric makes it significantly easier to track assets and perform around-the-clock monitoring. Elsewhere, power outages and interruptions can be pre-empted with the use of Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) such as the Schneider Electric Galaxy 3-phase VS UPS family, while Schneider Electric also offers a complete data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) solution.
Ultimately, the healthcare industry stands to benefit immensely from both IoT and edge computing, and the complementary advantages of both are sure to deliver additional advantages in the future as the sophistication of IoT devices continues to advance.
Article by Bhagwati Prasad, Vice President, Business Development, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric