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Care at the Edge: How COVID-19 has transformed where and how care is delivered…forever

Co-written by: Abe Ankumah, Sr. Director Nyansa Product Business Success, and Frank Nydam, VP of Global Healthcare Alliances and Solutions. 

Wherever you are reading this has literally become the new “doctor’s office. As a patient, your kitchen or bedroom has become the new exam room. As a caregiver, your office or hospital has transformed overnight into anywhere care is needed: a tent in a parking lot, a convention center, local firehouse, and our homes. Around the globe, healthcare IT has turned into digital first responders, quickly enabling care to be delivered every place and at a scale no one could have previously imagined. This is Care at the Edge.  

Over the last decade, healthcare has been focused on how to integrate digital technology into various aspects of healthcare delivery, in what is often referred to as digital transformation. The primary goal of this first-stage of transformation focused on moving one of the last major global industry sectors to a fully digital platform and business process. The next stage was to begin to leverage these new digital investments and platforms to become much more consumer (patient) oriented, collaborative (interoperable) and seamlessly connected.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has literally condensed this second stage from what could have taken years down to the matter of weeks. Healthcare IT has deployed technology to support virtual visits, remote patient monitoring, popup clinics, and an enormous workforce working from home. These accelerated uses and adoption of digital technology is being consumed where most of us in networking often refer to as the network edge – in contrast to the datacenter or cloud, where applications are hosted.

In healthcare, the edge is where the provider and patient are physically – it is a hospital, clinic, a caregivers home, patients’ home, or any other location. It is where the healthcare provider is rendering any part of the process in delivering care to a patient — whether it is providing diagnosis over video call, supporting a complex surgery remotely, accessing and updating patients electronic medical record, communicating with other caregivers, monitoring a patient, reading a diagnosis, conducting tests. The list goes on and on.  

The New Model

Anew model is emerging that coming out of this crisis that will establish a new normal for patient care that has been battle-tested out of necessity versus convenience. Care at the Edge is being delivered in new forms and providing remarkable success stories for healthcare digital transformation.  

  • Voice and video for healthcare services has exploded. On March 17, 2020 the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), loosened its telehealth rules for healthcare beneficiaries. Instead of being required to go to an “originating site,” beneficiaries could be seen in their homes, thus relaxing any kind of HIPAA enforcement of visits conducted through FaceTime, Skype, or other commonly used video conferencing apps and platforms like Zoom. I believe we’ll all look back on this as a major turning point for healthcare IT.
  • We’re seeing healthcare IT executives moving to support healthcare staff’s ability to work from home, without compromising their experience. In one example, the MD Anderson Cancer center has deployed over 1,000 secure network extensions into providers’ homes without scarifying quality and security in a matter of days.
  • Electronic medical records solutions like Epic and Cerner, are the life blood of efficiently delivering patient care. Networking solutions like VMware SD-WAN by VeloCloud that can identify and securely optimize the access and delivery of these EMR applications without any changes to how the applications are deployed today to any device, connection or location will be critical.
  • Inside hospitals and clinics, the need for dramatically improved workflows around patient monitoring, real-time clinician communication and support for the growing number of connected healthcare devices over Wi-Fi is at an all-time high. Deep, and in some cases, purpose built integrations like the GE-Healthcare and Nyansa AIOps solution are setting the bar for what is possible in healthcare IT systems
  • New secure integrated web-based patient monitoring and virtual care systems like GE Mural’s solution are being introduced to provide virtual care with dramatically simplified operations.

We’re witnessing a unique moment, with its many challenges, where healthcare IT is going to systematically change and, in our opinion, for the better in many arenas. While we’re not saving lives directly, we are thrilled about our ability to help remove barriers from the true heroes on the front lines who are saving lives!


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