The future of connected healthcare relies on ensuring better connections

 By Adam Byrne, chief operating officer at RealVNC

The number of connected devices in use today, including personal devices and those used within the workplace, has grown considerably in the last few years. For example, Gartner has predicted that there will be nearly 21 billion connected devices by 2020 and we’re likely to see the complexity of these devices grow alongside this.

As trends like the Internet of Things continue to grow, we’ll see more technology and processes becoming embedded within the healthcare sector. For example, the NHS is increasingly digitising its processes, data and systems to increase efficiency within the sector with the end goal of improving patient care. This will also reduce costs, and creating a more integrated and personalised healthcare system that meets increasing expectations from patients.

Today, connected healthcare is becoming part of the normal landscape, with connected medical devices routinely being used for patient care, and health applications monitoring patients throughout their treatment and recovery.

However, it is important not to overlook the vital backbone that ensures the effectiveness of these new technologies: real-time connectivity. When it’s considered properly, and the technology is implemented effectively, the true benefits to existing processes and the resulting ethos become apparent. We’ve seen this in practice in a number of interesting examples. Technicians within healthcare organisations such as the UK’s NHS are now able to ‘remote in’ to medical imaging equipment, from x-rays to MRI scanners, just as IT help desks remote in to office laptops and NHS hospitals. US medical boards are already using pioneering technology to remotely monitor and fix thousands of medical devices, improving uptime and improving patient service.

For example Calderstone NHS Trust now uses remote access software to facilitate IT helpdesk support quickly to all of its employees, by enabling technicians to remotely resolve IT issues quickly and efficiently from any location, removing travel time and cost so that resource is used efficiently. In addition, the Medical Board of California, a US Government Agency that licenses and regulates physicians and surgeons is using the technology to also fix IT solutions remotely, as well as provide staff with training off site. With this speed and efficiency, healthcare institutions are able to instantly remotely spot and fix problems across vast, widely-dispersed national healthcare systems, and keep them operational at all times. The result is improved patient care.

As the sector moves towards this digitisation, the possibilities for what can be done with this level of connectivity are potentially huge. In the future, trainee surgeons could receive advanced virtual training and ‘remote in’ to an operating theatre to view operations from different angles and see inside operating equipment in real-time.

A wider remote access strategy could one day create connected hospitals where everyone from surgeons to junior doctors can get real-time support or training from an expert at any location. Eventually, as the possibilities increase and new technologies come to fruition, the need for increased connectivity will grow, real-time connectivity improving overall efficiency. Hospitals will increasingly need not only to allow remote access to devices with screens, but also to allow the real-time sharing of everything from images to audio between all ‘IOT’ devices.

Once healthcare systems are able to communicate any kind of data among devices at any location in real-time, we will see hospitals begin to operate like ‘smart cities’ continuously re-adjusting ambulance movements, operations or the urgency of patient appointments in line with real-time data from computers and devices throughout their network.


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