Digital transformation is impacting every organisation in the world, from banks to bakeries, and the healthcare sector is no exception.
Healthcare is an incredibly data-intensive industry. According to IBM, medical data doubles every three years. By 2020, it will be doing so every 73 days. The $7 trillion healthcare industry in its current state is struggling to keep up.
In recent years, healthcare leaders have begun to recognise the critical importance of digital transformation to the long-term success of their organisations. While corporations are moving to the cloud to impact the business’s bottom line, the healthcare industry’s move to the digital edge is about enabling doctors to make a positive impact on as many people’s lives as possible. Cloud services help healthcare professionals analyse, organise, and make decisions based on massive amounts of data, which becomes especially important for large-scale operations in branches of healthcare such as population health.
The likes of IBM and General Electric are driving huge innovations across the healthcare sector. General Electric’s Health Cloud and IBM’s Watson each process vast amounts of medical data into their own centralised hub on the cloud, designed to optimise clinical workflows and empower doctors to perform at an even higher level. Consumer devices such as FitBits, Apple Watches, and other monitors (collectively known as the Healthcare Internet of Things) are also starting to transform the dynamics of the doctor-patient relationship, creating invaluable personal data that doctors can utilise in diagnosis and treatment. Sitting behind all of this, the cloud is now crucial to this increasingly data-led and hyper-connected way of delivering modern healthcare services.
But what enables the cloud itself? While there has been much discussion about the extent to which ventures such as the GE Health Cloud and IBM Watson will change the healthcare industry, there has been much less discussion about the infrastructure behind the scenes that enables these transformative technologies. Similar to how today’s doctors are hard-pressed to keep up with the vast quantities of medical data generated every second, the infrastructure of today’s public internet (which has remained largely unchanged since the implementation of telco lines a century ago) is struggling to keep up with new data demands. And as more data-intensive technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual/augmented reality and automation become more commonplace, further strain is inevitable.
This is where interconnection comes in. Interconnection is the ability to connect in many different ways to myriad different partners, employees and geographies to accelerate performance and create new opportunities. On its surface, interconnection is simple, in that it’s merely a piece of fibre running from one organisation’s network to another’s. However, what makes this concept so powerful is that it’s a secure, high-bandwidth connection with zero latency that bypasses the public Internet entirely, leading some to dub interconnection “the second internet.”
For the healthcare industry, the connectivity and security that direct interconnection provides is invaluable: enabling everyone from hospitals, clinics and pharmacies to practitioners, legal partners and government departments, to share data in a way that benefits all parties, including patients. It’s a trend that’s being seen across all industries and has grown exponentially over recent years, particularly with increased focus on areas such as population health. Imagine the amount of data required to analyse statistics from an entire population around health outcomes and patterns of health, to determine effective policies. According to our Global Interconnection Index, Europe’s interconnection installed bandwidth capacity is projected to grow 44% per annum from 2017-2020, to reach 1,450+ terabits per second (Tbps). In the healthcare sector specifically, interconnection in Europe is expected to grow by a factor of 8, increasing to 51 Tbps in 2020.
At Equinix, the world’s leading interconnection company, we recognise we have a very important role to play in the healthcare industry. By maintaining and developing ecosystems where healthcare organisations can collaborate – whether this involves radiologists sharing 3D renders of a patient to doctors on the other side of the world, or a smart medicine bottle recording and transmitting pill consumption data from a patient’s house to the pharmacy next door – we can create an environment where large quantities of data are seen as a benefit, not a burden.
There is perhaps no other industry where digital transformation holds the capacity to positively affect people’s lives than in healthcare. Moving healthcare IT infrastructure to the cloud allows practitioners to make more informed decisions, see more patients each day, and provide better guidance and treatment to those patients – the importance of which cannot be understated. But in many ways, the healthcare industry is like any other sector: competition is fierce, the stakes are high, and digital transformation is essential to organisations’ ongoing success and survival as they adapt to the digital age.
Eric Schwartz is EMEA President at global interconnection and data centre company Equinix.