The healthcare sector is undergoing a time of phenomenal demands, increased strain, and dramatic change. Even before the health crisis, the European digital health market was expected to reach a value of €145bn by 2025, and with growing dependency on critical power and digital patient care, the sector is undergoing a period of transformative growth.
Forbes predicts the amount of data within medical healthcare will double every 73 days annually, and in addition to this pre-existing growth, there is now another factor driving prolific data generation – the ongoing health crisis; with over 2.1 million reported cases in the EU alone so far.
With this increase in demand and data comes an important task, ensuring that healthcare organisations possess and harness the necessary digital infrastructure to support the anticipated growth, more so as the sector comes under greater pressure to ensure patient health, data integrity, and staff safety.
Digital trends in healthcare today
According to CBI, which is part of the governmental Netherlands Enterprise Agency, by 2025 there will be 10.34 million connected devices within the healthcare industry in Europe, up from just 2.79 million in 2019. There is also a unanimous focus among sector professionals on customer care and data centricity, with over 80 per cent placing it as their top priority in 2019. Accompanying this growth is an investment in new Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and key factors driving this shift include greater attention to active patient engagement, a growing need for cost control and efficiency measures, and the requirement for connected, patient-centric devices.
According to The Health Foundation, “before this crisis, around 85% of the ‘burden of disease‘ in the UK was from long-term conditions rather than infectious disease.” Consequently, the healthcare sector has had to rapidly reimagine its delivery methods, relying heavily on digital infrastructure to care for patients and utilise technology to better support them.
AI, for example, is rapidly changing the ways in which we diagnose patients and it is predicted that in the coming years, AI supercomputers will be able to provide results for bio samples (such as saliva and blood tests) in minutes, with up to 90 per cent accuracy, rather than the weeks that traditional methods take today. This, among other factors, is helping expand this market to an expected value of €4.2 billion by 2025.
Other advances already being observed include wearable technology to help monitor ongoing health conditions, simulated and virtual consultation processes through apps and video conferencing, and 3D modeling to help with diagnosis and training, all of which are being vastly accelerated within the health crisis, as the need for distributed working and remote care increases.
Challenges and opportunities
The industry today faces several key challenges with this sudden and drastic change. First and foremost is the vast threat of downtime and power failure. The nature of the healthcare sector itself is mission-critical; uptime (as well as patient and staff safety) is of paramount importance, ensuring both the health and safety of those in the hands of our hard-working healthcare professionals.
With more Doctors and General Practitioners seeking to offer care remotely or virtually, latency and downtime cannot be countenanced in any degree, placing enormous pressure on the IT professionals working behind closed doors. Thankfully, with remote monitoring, these threats are easily counteracted, if utilised correctly.
The second consideration is data security. Cybersecurity was, of course, an area of concern for many businesses before the health crisis, but this new demand for heightened data protection and governance has placed great strain on existing cyber-defence software and increased demands for physical security solutions. This does, however, present a new opportunity for specialised technology partners to embark on the challenge of supporting the healthcare sector, most recently with Microsoft offering hospitals free cyber-attack prevention software following a number of attempted hacking incidents.
Amongst the challenges facing the sector, are some key opportunities for learning and development for the professionals within it. The World Health Organisation now offers the ‘OpenWHO’ platform – a site to host unlimited users during health emergencies, offering over 40 different courses in 21 languages to help staff become more versatile in their approach to care. Similarly, for the IT teams, there is now an opportunity to showcase the capabilities of digital infrastructure, and how it can support mission-critical operations more reliably.
Ensuring uptime for healthcare systems
For healthcare organisations, downtime is simply not an option. Regardless if you are working in a hospital, a clinic, a research or diagnostic laboratory – uptime is intrinsically important, every second of the day. To help counteract these risks and threats, Schneider Electric proudly supports IT teams working within the sector to ensure patient care, data and staff safety. Our Smart-UPS™ provide resilient power protection against surges, outages or disruption, while EcoStruxure Micro Data Centers™, are quick to deploy, secure and offer high performance connectivity for latency sensitive applications.
Finally, EcoStruxure IT Expert™ software, used today by one of Europe’s largest genomic research organisations, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, offers a cloud-based, vendor-agnostic, remote monitoring solution, enabling visibility into IT infrastructure from anywhere, at any time, helping to prevent downtime.
From small clinics through to vast hospital environments, every single area of the healthcare sector today is facing enormous pressure to keep patients healthy, staff safe and optimize daily operations.
The health crisis has presented a level of demand on the health systems around Europe that couldn’t have been predicted in many lifetimes;, it is our job, therefore, to ensure that we are doing our best to deliver secure, robust and resilient digital solutions that help healthcare professionals deliver best-in-class health service to millions.
To learn more about Schneider Electric edge computing solution for healthcare click here.