Expanding Healthcare’s Reach on the Edge

The availability of healthcare data is changing the way that medical professionals treat patients. Through edge computing and the Internet of Things, patients can be treated virtually anywhere as long as they have the right technology on hand. 

Healthcare workers need to respond quickly to patient needs and having information at their fingertips is key. Combining the virtually limitless computing power of the cloud and 5G connectivity with mobile devices is reshaping the way hospitals and clinics manage data. Edge computing can provide speed, scale, and reliable performance, which can help an overburdened global healthcare industry do more with less.

An edge component on a hospital site can process and manage data locally, which helps address security concerns about privacy for large amounts of data. Edge computing can also send push notifications about pertinent information pulled from multiple sources within the hospital. This provides insights, patterns, and trends that can be used for analytics to improve efficiencies and increase productivity.

The pandemic highlighted many of the inefficiencies and inequities of our healthcare system as it was brought to a breaking point. As a result, technology adoption by the healthcare industry has increased and tech innovation is being touted as a way of addressing staffing shortages. The World Health Organization estimates a projected shortfall of 10 million health workers by 2030. Connected devices powered by edge computing are being seen as a way of expanding healthcare beyond physical boundaries and eventually transforming patient care. 

Across industries, mobile solutions can help with business growth and efficiency. This article focuses on ways to take advantage of cloud solutions on the edge.

Digital Transformation Equals A Lot of Data 

Technology is being used in new and interesting ways in healthcare. For example, tablets are now commonplace in healthcare facilities with some hospitals providing bedside connected tablets. Patients can use the devices to check their medication, read about their doctors, and even order their meals, freeing the staff to focus on medical care. 

Wearable medical devices can monitor vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure, and health monitors can help with remote care. These wearable wireless devices can also allow for the integration of patient health data points in health profiles, further enhancing and streamlining the value of utilizing electronic medical records through mobile solutions. 

Hospitals need unified communication to allow doctors to consult on cases or check patient messages from anywhere in the hospital, or anywhere in the world, within the time frames needed by the systems and to optimize patient care. The healthcare industry is also using virtual reality to enhance patient care and facilitate training. 

It is estimated that 30% of all global stored data is from healthcare and life sciences. But for all this tech to work efficiently, healthcare systems must handle massive amounts of data closer to the data-gathering devices, such as a wearable device that sends data to a cell phone through Bluetooth. That is where the power of edge computing comes in. 

Edge Computing in Action 

The Internet of Things (IoT) in healthcare can refer to any number of devices such as cardiac monitors or thermometers. Hospitals use sensors to monitor everything from the air quality to the number of vehicles in the parking lot. Artificial intelligence (AI) works with these sensors to provide insights, enhancing edge computing because it can analyze lots of data and trigger responses in real-time. Imaging models powered by AI, for example, can detect potential concerns in X-rays and send those images to the front of the line for a clinician to review. 

Smart ambulances are being developed across the globe, giving first responders the ability to communicate with doctors on the way to the hospital via high-definition video and then transmit data over a 5G connection to the emergency room.

Virtual doctor visits surged during the pandemic and now are commonplace. Remote patient monitoring and telehealth services can reach patients that might not have easy access to healthcare.

Edge computing can provide data faster with low latency, making real-time computing possible. Radiology scans, for example, generate a lot of data which can eat up huge amounts of bandwidth and cloud storage. Keeping this information locally is cheaper and more secure for storing sensitive, patient records. 

How to Take Advantage of the Edge

The global edge computing market was valued at more than $11 billion in 2022. For big organizations such as hospitals, universities, or banks, it makes sense to invest in a private network. International corporations need unified communication, for example, to transfer data in a more reliable, secure way through a 5G connection.

This represents a huge opportunity for telcos to transform themselves into Digital Service Providers (DSPs). Today, DSPs have a large number of customers in the small-to-medium businesses (SMB) segment, and for those SMBs, it can be more cost effective to subscribe to a high-speed connection through a DSP and consume a catalog of digital solutions. One of these solutions, for instance, could be a subscription to edge-computing, or to an application running on top of other service activities, such as accounting. Since these applications operate on the edge of the network, they perform better with low latency and without the company having to make a large investment. 

For healthcare, edge computing allows healthcare workers to expand their reach and provide care virtually anywhere. As an overburdened healthcare system struggles with staffing shortages, it is getting assistance from the “edge” of the network to improve efficiency through more reliable, faster, and secure connections. 

Adonay Cervantes is a Digital Ecosystem leader, business success enabler, and IT evangelist with 23 years of experience in the industry. He has written articles about the digital economy evolution and has appeared in various publications including Forbes.


This article was written by Guest Author from Healthcare IT Today and was legally licensed through the DiveMarketplace by Industry Dive. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.