The future of healthcare technology, and how edge computing will shape it.

In a recent global discussion with 20 healthcare[1] professionals, seven key factors of considerations for healthcare environments were established. From remote operations to power reliability and enhanced cybersecurity through to risk mitigation – there are countless challenges presented to the sector currently and in the foreseeable future, many of which can be aided by the appropriate IT and digital infrastructure.

With phenomenal demand on the healthcare sector increasing year on year, it is predicted that medical records and data will double every 73 days, all-year-round[2]. Supporting this extraordinary demand within the sector is the digital infrastructure within organisations – which is being led by vast developments in the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and artificial intelligence (AI) specifically. Within this fast-evolving sector, there are several areas where technology seems to be lightyears ahead of our current practices in other areas of business. These examples include trials of drone-ambulances predicted by 2040[3], blood-analysing injectable implants by 2035[4], and AI being used in predictive diagnosis and surgical practices by 2030. The latter two here reference a much wider shift of work – that of remote and predictive care. Through harnessing the power of connected devices today and using Big Data to analyse patterns and trends throughout healthcare, we can expect to see a considerably more connected system in place in this sector. So much so, that it is predicted the use of AI in healthcare is expected to grow at an annual rate of 40 percent through 2021, to a value of over €5.5 billion[5].

When considering the challenges of today, the mind wonders automatically to what the future might hold. The healthcare sector has developed exponentially in the past 10-15 years, to an almost unrecognisable position now. With the likes of 3D printing, rapid testing and remote application seamlessly improving not only the quality but also the speed of work carried out by healthcare professionals across the world, the industry shows no signs of slowing these advances either.

One particular theme we expect to see continue developing tremendously is remote patient care, through IoT connected devices and back-end infrastructure providing a culture of ‘anytime, anywhere’ accessibility. For instance, ‘Tele-ICU’[6] (Intensive Care Unit), which in its simplest form, means that off-site practitioners can offer their expertise for patients and interact with bedside staff, to consult from a geographically dispersed location (often from another intensive care unit). With the continued advances in technology, Tele-ICU systems are likely to become increasingly more common among healthcare environments, as professionals seek quicker, more efficient ways of delivering safe and reliable patient care.

Considering the future of healthcare and technology’s role in it, we must also consider the general practitioners, nursing homes, mental health practices – as it is not only vast hospital wards that benefit from the innovative new technology available today. For instance, in a dementia home in Leeds, UK[7], a trial project was rolled out to explore the benefits of implementing Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s iPad technology, to support patients and carers. The technology was pre-programmed with patient reminders such as medication schedules and medical appointments, designed to provide a sense of control back to the individuals. This may seem a simple form of technology to deploy, but it is important to remember the benefits this can, in turn, produce, such as giving back a form of independence to the patient in question and providing more capacity and time for the carers involved.

Schneider Electric is proud to have supported the healthcare sector for decades, and is continuing to do so today, tomorrow and well into the future. As the number of connected devices across Europe is expected to reach 10.34m[8] by just 2025, the utilisation of connectivity is going to continue changing the way we live and work every single day. By deploying Internet of Things devices and technologies in healthcare, organisations can create brand new revenue streams, improve operational efficiency and most importantly – enhance the patient experience, and staff safety. Using products and services such as Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure micro data centre solutions[9], data is securely transferred and downtime is drastically minimised, most importantly, however – latency is avoided. In any healthcare environment, whether it be a research and testing centre, general practitioners or an intensive care unit in a central hospital, latency simply cannot be tolerated. Lives are at risk; patient care is often critical, and continuity of connectivity is imperative.

Across the healthcare sector, edge computing and data centre technology can be deployed and utilised for special research organisations, helping fuel the fight against deathly diseases across the world. For example, Schneider Electric recently deployed EcoStruxure™ IT Expert[10] at the Wellcome Sanger Institute[11], one of Europe’s leading genomic research centres. Driving energy efficiency and ensuring more funding for genomic focus, the institute expanded into a fourth data hall comprising more than 400 racks and consuming more than 4MW of power, deploying Smart APC Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS)[12] and cooling equipment to ensure minimal downtime, optimum uptime and most importantly – mission-critical continuity, ensuring that the centre can operate at maximum capacity, 24/7.

The future of the healthcare industry is complex, and will undoubtedly require unprecedented support from technology, financial and wider sectors as it continues to battle the ongoing health crisis and beyond. Schneider Electric’s resilient solutions are specifically designed to support the healthcare sector and its professionals through the challenges and new opportunities presented in the immediate and long-term future; helping to deploy innovative edge computing, data centre technology and hyper-connectivity quickly, efficiently and safely to this rapidly developing sector.

Find out more about how Schneider Electric supports the healthcare industry here.

[1] Schneider Electric, 2020

[2] Forbes, 2020

[3] Health Europa, 2020

[4] Health Europa, 2019

[5] Healthcare Weekly, 2020

[6] HealthTech, 2020

[7] Health Tech Digital, 2020

[8] Markets and Markets, 2020

[9] APC by Schneider Electric, 2020

[10] Schneider Electric, 2020

[11] APC by Schneider Electric, 2020

[12] Schneider Electric, 2020

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