The New Normal in Healthcare: Ensuring Continuity and Scale to Deliver Patient Care During the COVID-19 Crisis

In a recent best book of the year, Being Mortal, Dr. Atul Gawande describes how “engineers build backup systems to backup systems,” pointing out that even our human bodies have two of many features. Kidneys. Lungs. Legs. Arms. This makes me think about all of the ways innovative and emerging technologies can be used to help back up healthcare organizations at this unprecedented time in history.

Hyperconverged infrastructure. Cloud. Software-defined networking (SDN). Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). Analytics. Even artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML). These can all be critical tools in healthcare organizations’ IT arsenals when caring for the critically ill while keeping healthy populations safe.

Highest Priority First

As hospitals work quickly to pivot their emergency preparedness plans and staff to ensure continuity in the face of anticipated—and in some cases, already ailing—patient populations, they are looking to IT for much-needed leadership. In these extraordinary days, IT will be critical to not only support efficient interactions between clinicians and patients, but also to ensure that foundational infrastructure capabilities such as security and scalability remain always on and available for the duration of the crisis.

Healthcare IT needs to be prepared for whatever may come by establishing five capabilities in particular:

  1. Be Prepared to Add Capacity by Bursting to the Cloud

The latest pandemic spreads exponentially. To address the necessity of being able to “burst” to support these expected workloads, healthcare IT teams should turn to a hybrid cloud model. This approach—which involves a mixture of on-premises and public cloud environments—facilitates the seamless transfer of data, applications, and information securely across environments even as it supports massive bursts in both compute and storage capacity. By doing this, IT can add as many virtual machines (VMs) as needed, ensure continuous uptime, and safeguard sensitive protected health information (PHI) from being put at risk.


  1. Treat More Patients Through Telehealth / Telemedicine

Physicians can leverage telehealth services—the ability to connect digitally to any patient, anywhere, on any device—to more quickly triage patients remotely and avoid overloading emergency rooms. These technologies can also leverage the limited time of physicians and nursing staff assigned to intensive care units (ICUs) by monitoring patients remotely from mobile devices as caregivers move from room to room. Moreover, telehealth can be used for collaboration, for example, by enlisting remote specialists to review MRIs, ultrasounds, and x-rays as demand for critical care diverts generalist and emergency medical resources to the most urgent cases.

  1. Provide Reliable Connectivity to the Edge

As nonconventional health facilities are established—for example, in military facilities, hotels, or even ships—the ability to enable secure remote access to the edge of the network will be imperative.

  1. Connect Non-Essential Staff to Healthcare Workplaces

From billing and HR personnel to application developers, remote workers will remain essential to functioning healthcare operations. Although not required—or even permitted—to be on hospital premises, they will keep healthcare organizations running in many other important ways, while providing support for families in crisis. A robust network capable of supporting a widely distributed workforce is another necessity for these essential professionals.

  1. Leverage IoMT and Intrinsic Security in Patient Care

Hospitals that have already begun the hard work of integrating IoMT sensors and devices into clinical workflows will know where and how many resources they have at all times. This can accelerate their efforts to help to treat the anticipated large numbers of patients efficiently and effectively without straining their health networks. And by depending on intrinsic security, hospitals can protect patient privacy and prevent breaches of sensitive PHI.

Extend Your Existing, Proven Digital Foundation

The healthcare industry is facing exceptional challenges during this global pandemic. Hospitals that are ahead in their digital transformation journeys have an undisputed edge. They can extend their already virtualized on-premises infrastructure to serve as a digital foundation on-ramp to ensure the mission-critical continuity of operations required to fight the virus.

They can also move quickly to adopt:

  • Digital workspaces such as VMware Workspace ONE™ that include virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) so hospital staff can securely access critical PHI and applications from anywhere, from any device.
  • Elastic capacity enabled by VMware Cloud™ to burst and scale networks, enabling the expansion and preventing the disruption of critical healthcare services.
  • SDNs extended with VeloCloud by VMware to ensure that applications being accessed remotely or at the edge of the network perform as needed.
  • Intrinsic security across their network, from the core to the cloud, with VMware NSX
  • Protected endpoints from VMware Carbon Black to remediate vulnerabilities and risky system configurations, in real time.

To learn more about how VMware can help your healthcare organization during the pandemic, including providing free trials, please visit our continuity of operations website.


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