How Edge Computing Solutions are Supporting New Healthcare Demands

edge computing applications in healthcare

We all know what a heroic job healthcare providers have done in dealing with the challenges that COVID-19 presents, and we’re extremely thankful to them (including my wife, who is a COVID nurse). Less well-known is how IT and OT professionals in healthcare are ensuring systems are in place to aid those front-line providers in doing their jobs, including a rapidly expanding array of edge computing systems.

This time last year, the talk in healthcare IT circles was all about implementing electronic medical records (EMR) systems, HIPAA compliance, data protection, and increasing resiliency. With COVID, everything changed overnight. What healthcare used to define as the edge – think doctor’s offices and clinics – has extended to include people’s homes and mobile and temporary healthcare facilities.

Consider just a few examples of what healthcare providers are experiencing:

  • Building a temporary hospital space. Big cities like New York transformed large convention centers into hospitals, and smaller cities set up outdoor tents in city parks.
  • Providing mobile bed space. In other instances, healthcare providers installed a dozen or so beds in a cargo container attached to an 18-wheeler.
  • Deploying mobile testing stations in store parking lots.
  • Ramping up telemedicine applications that enable providers to handle routine healthcare needs remotely, so patients and healthcare staff can remain safe.

In all of these examples, IT must provide network connectivity, compute and storage infrastructure to support this new, distributed and mobile healthcare model. And that creates a number of challenges for both IT and operational technology (OT) groups supporting these initiatives.

IT/OT challenges in the new healthcare normal

For applications like telemedicine, IT may need to redeploy network and compute capacity dedicated to test/development or disaster recovery to support the sudden, massive influx of people connecting remotely via virtual desktops, laptops, tablets and phones.

Mobile and temporary healthcare facilities require complete edge data center capabilities, which means deploying network, compute and storage remotely, on-site. That requires some type of enclosure along with supporting infrastructure including power protection with uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), cooling and racks. Healthcare related deployments must address both physical and cyber security imposed by regulatory requirements.

Lately I’ve also been involved with back-to-work initiatives aimed at safely returning employees to work that follow guidelines issued by states and the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These apply both to healthcare and other market verticals, but involve applications such as thermal fever detection, contact tracing and touchless entry systems. Here again, edge computing is required to support such solutions.

Finding enough qualified IT/OT talent is also a challenge with staffs already stretched thin and many providers are taking even greater advantage of public cloud offerings, expanding on what, for most, was already a hybrid cloud model.

HPE, Schneider Electric: partners in healthcare 

Healthcare organizations need access to turnkey IT solutions that enable them to adapt and scale quickly at edge sites. One solution up for that challenge is a modular data center infrastructure. Prefabricated modular data centers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from the smallest micro data centers to support a dozen beds on an 18-wheeler to large ISO containers, which may be required to support a large temporary hospital in a convention center.

No single company can provide everything that healthcare or other industries need to support their edge computing initiatives. That’s why HPE has been partnering with Schneider Electric to provide customers with quick and easy ways to deploy edge computing virtually anywhere – and to support those all-important healthcare workers.

Healthcare IT or facility managers can utilize reference designs to spell out the exact configurations of computer, network, and storage equipment that will work with each other and with supporting power and cooling infrastructure.

When evaluating options, make sure intelligent physical security is baked into these edge data center solutions, from locks and keyless entry systems on enclosures to surveillance cameras. Security is particularly critical for healthcare applications and to adhere to various government regulations.

For example, HPE and Schneider Electric have integrated our solutions, so you don’t have to engineer a solution from scratch. We offer reference guides such as HPE SimpliVity or HPE OneView to software solutions like Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxureTM IT platform, which provides visibility and management for distributed IT sites.

We honor our healthcare workers by helping them create and deploy solutions that enable them to focus on their jobs. Plenty of organizations out there want to help, and we’re proud to be among them.

To learn more, visit the Schneider Electric edge computing site. And, the next chance you get, thank a healthcare professional for his or her service.

Guest Blogger- Aaron Carman

Aaron Carman

Aaron Carman is the Distinguished Technologist, North America at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. In his role, Aaron is focused on helping customers with IoT, edge and core data center solutions.
His background includes experience in consulting, design and implementation of mission-critical technology as well as the development and productization of IoT solutions. He is passionate about helping customers by developing partnerships and aligning resources to identify and deliver practical options for their evolving IT infrastructure needs.

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