White Paper

Infrastructure Is Essential as Providers Deploy Technology for Senior Care

To improve healthcare outcomes, organizations must cover fundamentals such as storage, networking and security.
September 09, 2019

Technology is an essential tool for providers looking to address the strain that the aging population is putting on the U.S. healthcare system. Solutions such as mobile devices, EHRs, telehealth systems and data analytics can make sure care is delivered more effectively and efficiently. 

But to successfully roll out new IT solutions that enhance senior care and make staffers more effective, organizations must also adopt supporting technologies and infrastructure.

Cloud-based applications: Not long ago, many senior care organizations were reluctant to adopt cloud resources of any kind. Concerns about data privacy are, for good reason, a major concern in the industry, and many CIOs and technology directors considered it an unacceptable risk to place any patient data outside the organization. As the public cloud has matured, however, stakeholders within these organizations have grown more comfortable with the model, and 70 percent of healthcare leaders now say that on-premises software and data will continue to move to the public cloud in the future. In addition to cloud infrastructure and applications, many organizations have invested in cloud-based EHR platforms, which allow for automated updates and give providers location-independent access.  

Backup and storage: As organizations in healthcare and other industries refresh their on-premises data center infrastructure, many are upgrading from spinning-disk storage to flash storage. While the sticker price of flash remains higher than that of traditional storage, data efficiency technologies such as compression and deduplication bring the effective cost of each solution in line with one another. And, because the performance level of flash storage is so much higher than that of hard disk drives, organizations that invest in flash typically see a greater return on their investment, with an improved user experience for latency-sensitive applications. Additionally, organizations are often able to achieve savings on their backup environments by moving seldom-used archival data to inexpensive tiers of public cloud storage. 

Networking: Both wired and wireless networks are essential to supporting new IT applications in senior care. Emerging Internet of Things use cases may require dedicated wireless connectivity solutions. Meanwhile, video-intensive applications such as telehealth will strain the existing IT networks of some organizations, requiring new investments. This strain is felt even more as patients demand access to streaming services such as Netflix, which further use bandwidth. 

Security: More devices and applications mean more data, and more data means greater vulnerability. In addition to staying in compliance with data safety regulations such as HIPAA, senior care providers must proactively ward off the same sorts of threats that affect organizations across all sectors. To take one relatively small (but nonetheless catastrophic) example: A ransomware attack forced a Michigan medical practice to fold entirely in 2019; after doctors refused to pay a $6,500 ransom, hackers wiped all of the practice’s files, including appointment schedules, patient data and payment information. 

Mobile devices: It’s easy (and usually inexpensive) to try out a new mobile app to see if it will improve care, make employees more productive or enhance seniors’ lives. But rolling out mobile devices to support these applications requires a much larger investment. Senior care IT leaders need to consider which devices will support both the highest-value and widest array of use cases, while also factoring in variables such as cost, battery life and usability. For devices that seniors will use themselves, an intuitive interface and a large screen size are top priorities, making tablets a better fit than smartphones for many organizations. 

Mobility management: Enterprise mobility management solutions give organizations visibility into (and control over) mobile devices, content and applications. This is essential in a senior care setting, when much of the data being accessed via mobile devices is sensitive and regulated. In addition to placing safeguards around patient data, EMM tools can prohibit certain applications and behaviors, preventing legitimate users from inadvertently putting the organization at risk. Mobility management solutions typically include identity and access management features, and also allow IT administrators to remotely wipe mobile devices if they’re lost or stolen. 

Disaster recovery: Senior care organizations must adopt disaster recovery strategies, policies, procedures and solutions that enable them to quickly bounce back from — and continue delivering care during — a natural disaster or cyberattack that threatens business continuity. In addition to creating redundancy through colocation centers, public cloud providers or other means, organizations must craft and test out detailed plans for failing over critical systems in the immediate wake of a disaster. Many organizations opt for Disaster Recovery as a Service engagements, in which a third-party provider takes responsibility for most major tasks related to DR planning and execution. 

Collaboration: Senior care organizations may invest in a range of collaboration technologies, with different stakeholders using different solutions. For example, doctors, nurses and other care providers may want to share patient status updates via secure, HIPAA-compliant text messaging apps. Business teams, meanwhile, may want access to team collaboration suites that unify applications such as voice, text, calendar and file sharing. Video collaboration is especially important in healthcare, as high-quality cameras, displays and audio solutions can result in improved telehealth experiences for patients.

14 million

The number of Americans expected to be living with Alzheimer’s disease in the year 2050

Source: Alzheimer’s Association, “2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures,” March 5, 2019

Technology is an essential tool for providers looking to address the strain that the aging population is putting on the U.S. healthcare system. Solutions such as mobile devices, EHRs, telehealth systems and data analytics can make sure care is delivered more effectively and efficiently. 

But to successfully roll out new IT solutions that enhance senior care and make staffers more effective, organizations must also adopt supporting technologies and infrastructure.

Cloud-based applications: Not long ago, many senior care organizations were reluctant to adopt cloud resources of any kind. Concerns about data privacy are, for good reason, a major concern in the industry, and many CIOs and technology directors considered it an unacceptable risk to place any patient data outside the organization. As the public cloud has matured, however, stakeholders within these organizations have grown more comfortable with the model, and 70 percent of healthcare leaders now say that on-premises software and data will continue to move to the public cloud in the future. In addition to cloud infrastructure and applications, many organizations have invested in cloud-based EHR platforms, which allow for automated updates and give providers location-independent access.  

Backup and storage: As organizations in healthcare and other industries refresh their on-premises data center infrastructure, many are upgrading from spinning-disk storage to flash storage. While the sticker price of flash remains higher than that of traditional storage, data efficiency technologies such as compression and deduplication bring the effective cost of each solution in line with one another. And, because the performance level of flash storage is so much higher than that of hard disk drives, organizations that invest in flash typically see a greater return on their investment, with an improved user experience for latency-sensitive applications. Additionally, organizations are often able to achieve savings on their backup environments by moving seldom-used archival data to inexpensive tiers of public cloud storage. 

Networking: Both wired and wireless networks are essential to supporting new IT applications in senior care. Emerging Internet of Things use cases may require dedicated wireless connectivity solutions. Meanwhile, video-intensive applications such as telehealth will strain the existing IT networks of some organizations, requiring new investments. This strain is felt even more as patients demand access to streaming services such as Netflix, which further use bandwidth. 

Security: More devices and applications mean more data, and more data means greater vulnerability. In addition to staying in compliance with data safety regulations such as HIPAA, senior care providers must proactively ward off the same sorts of threats that affect organizations across all sectors. To take one relatively small (but nonetheless catastrophic) example: A ransomware attack forced a Michigan medical practice to fold entirely in 2019; after doctors refused to pay a $6,500 ransom, hackers wiped all of the practice’s files, including appointment schedules, patient data and payment information. 

Mobile devices: It’s easy (and usually inexpensive) to try out a new mobile app to see if it will improve care, make employees more productive or enhance seniors’ lives. But rolling out mobile devices to support these applications requires a much larger investment. Senior care IT leaders need to consider which devices will support both the highest-value and widest array of use cases, while also factoring in variables such as cost, battery life and usability. For devices that seniors will use themselves, an intuitive interface and a large screen size are top priorities, making tablets a better fit than smartphones for many organizations. 

Mobility management: Enterprise mobility management solutions give organizations visibility into (and control over) mobile devices, content and applications. This is essential in a senior care setting, when much of the data being accessed via mobile devices is sensitive and regulated. In addition to placing safeguards around patient data, EMM tools can prohibit certain applications and behaviors, preventing legitimate users from inadvertently putting the organization at risk. Mobility management solutions typically include identity and access management features, and also allow IT administrators to remotely wipe mobile devices if they’re lost or stolen. 

Disaster recovery: Senior care organizations must adopt disaster recovery strategies, policies, procedures and solutions that enable them to quickly bounce back from — and continue delivering care during — a natural disaster or cyberattack that threatens business continuity. In addition to creating redundancy through colocation centers, public cloud providers or other means, organizations must craft and test out detailed plans for failing over critical systems in the immediate wake of a disaster. Many organizations opt for Disaster Recovery as a Service engagements, in which a third-party provider takes responsibility for most major tasks related to DR planning and execution. 

Collaboration: Senior care organizations may invest in a range of collaboration technologies, with different stakeholders using different solutions. For example, doctors, nurses and other care providers may want to share patient status updates via secure, HIPAA-compliant text messaging apps. Business teams, meanwhile, may want access to team collaboration suites that unify applications such as voice, text, calendar and file sharing. Video collaboration is especially important in healthcare, as high-quality cameras, displays and audio solutions can result in improved telehealth experiences for patients.

To learn more about how technology can help overcome the challenges to senior care, read the CDW white paper “Meeting the Healthcare Challenges of an Aging Population Through IT.”

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