Converging health care IT
Network convergence in the next ten decades
'Converged infrastructure' brings vast efficiency increases from a technical and business perspective. This article looks at network convergence, its effects on IT and what it may bring to healthcare in the next ten years - and beyond.
Over the next decade, global healthcare will face vast demand growth, driven by higher life expectancy, improved treatment, more complex illnesses and increased global access to healthcare. Yet global healthcare budgets are being lowered, partly due to the economic downturn.
Healthcare will see marked changes, supported by new technologies. Care will move from hospital-centric systems towards more remote care at local offices or patients’ homes, thanks to advanced monitoring and communications solutions. Hospital-patient communication, healthcare tiering, lifestyle awareness and triage are all becoming increasingly important. Patients’ hospitalisation must be shortened, and on critical cases cared for in the primary healthcare sector. Remote monitoring and teleconsulting can help here.
Convergance for care
Until recently, in-building resources were grouped and devoted to specific functions: telephony, internet, security, building infrastructure, data... Today, however, integrated pools of computers, storage and networking resources are shared across multiple applications, enabled by automatic resource allocation based on pre-defined policies. As networks converge, the importance of data as an asset continues to grow and as more devices are IP-equipped, policy-driven convergence is used to operate resources.
Clinical converged infrastructure can improve global healthcare efficiency whilst reducing costs and improving service levels. New networks open up possibilities, such as vast data storage, transfer and analysis, or support for patient monitoring and HD cameras.
Off-site medical consultants can advise or oversee medical procedures, operations or diagnostics. Patient entertainment and communications services can also converge onto a single system.
Patients can be guided through medical facilities and find information on treatment procedures. For care providers, all this means more ease and efficiency at a lower cost.
A new solution using FTTO (Fibre To The Office) can provide significant benefits for hospitals. Let’s look at one real-world example...
DNU: Denmark's fibred hospital of the future
Denmark is spending over five billion Euros on 14 consolidated ‘superhospitals’. By 2020, the first should be completed: the New University Hospital (DNU) Aarhus, the largest hospital project in the country’s history. More than 280,000 m2 of new buildings will be built, the remainder will be converted from existing facilities. The hospital village will feature a wide range of state-of-the-art IT innovations making it far more efficient and cost-effective. To accommodate a wide range of current and future service and applications, some 80,000 fibres will run to a vast number of outlets across the campus. “The underlying infrastructure must be as fast and reliable as possible," explains Lars Ganzhorn Knudsen, Project CIO DNU. “Not only to support current equipment, but also to accommodate future applications and technologies and absorb changes in demand. We chose a double fibre ring with a large number of ports for reliability and cost reasons. Some 800 services run on top of our network, from traditional clinical applications such Electronic Patient Records and clinical logistics to archiving radiology and MRI images. There are patient administration, accounting and financial systems as well as building management solutions. Telephony, entertainment and WiFi also run on this fibre backbone. We’re making a lot of bandwidth available and building redundancy into our wireless network so staff can check, monitor and communicate from any location. They can check in to an advanced scheduling app from anywhere and immediately see which facilities are booked and available, and reschedule or prioritise at once if necessary.”
Advanced healthcare solutions
“All three new hospital campuses in our region will have the same kind of fibre network. Other regions are watching us carefully, and I would definitely advise them to take the fibre route. Nexans provided the best balance between cost and effectiveness.”
“The amount of data being transferred is also constantly increasing. Imagine seven or eight thousand patients having access to several entertainment and information channels at the same time. Furthermore, we’re a University hospital, with our own auditorium. Sometimes 200 students will be taking notes, using different applications, recording and looking things up online.”
“A colleague from Norway recently remarked: “If you don’t have a reliable network, you need to evacuate your hospital right away!” It is becoming as crucial as electricity and medical supplies. Our workforce is becoming increasingly mobile and the clinic’s efficiency drive is forcing us to ensure staff always have access to data. We also have a huge fibre network across the region which all hospitals are hooked up to, for example to exchange data. We have a WAN with three dedicated data centres. We can get experts from one location to review scans from another location. Recently, an operation was carried out remotely. We also work with a centralised pool of remote interpreters.”
“Bandwidth is very high, right up to the user port,” says Ejvind Olsen, Key Account Manager at Nexans Denmark. “This solution makes easy configuration changes in the hospital possible. If a room or department needs to be assigned a different function, that’s no problem.” Lars concludes: “The FTTO concept provides us with the best possible flexibility to design our new buildings to respond to challenging requirements of modern health care institutions – at an outstanding cost advantage compared to more traditional infrastructures.”