Saving Clinical Time: Digital developments saving lives 

Nov 15, 2023 | Blog


Intelligent networks with new IoT management can not just save time but better support clinicians and secure medical facilities, writes JT Tech’s Elois Gasque

The long-promised IT revolution in healthcare is slowly coming to fruition From electronic health records to bedside clinical data, great strides are being made in applying the digital revolution to healthcare. However, there are other less intuitive areas where such technologies can have the same level of impact, saving clinicians’ time and improving patient outcomes.

Lost time, lost care
A UK survey of more than 1,000 nurses found that at least one in three spent an hour or more per shift searching for medical equipment to use with their patients, or a total of about 6000 hours wasted a month just searching for missing equipment. The survey report says that nurses could be spending the equivalent of 40 hours per month searching for equipment, and worryingly, in 16% of cases, respondents said they had given up having failed to find a piece of equipment.

Furthermore, previous studies have shown that frontline clinicians and staff in hospitals spend at least 10% of their time working around operational failures, or situations in which information, supplies, or equipment needed for patient care are insufficient. This can often be misconfigured or non-functioning equipment such as heart monitors, infusion pumps, blood gas analysers, and other ambulant equipment. In some cases, these pieces of vital equipment need connectivity in order to perform, and many have been found connected to unsecured networks such as guest Wi-Fi in clinical settings, or unable to achieve a connection at all.

What is needed in these settings is an intelligent network that can identify each piece of medical equipment, be it an MRI scanner or a mobile heart monitor, geolocate it and provide an appropriate, secure connection, allowing clinicians to apply it to achieving better patient outcomes. Time saved for clinicians is time that can save lives.

“This technology stack of intelligent network, IoT management and geofencing, gives a level of visibility to clinicians, administrators and resource managers that provides immediate utility, while supporting resource management and strategic development, saving time and money in providing the highest levels of care”

Device regulation
There are strict rules for medical device regulation and the EU recently updated its directives, which are in fact Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This includes cybersecurity regulation aimed at reducing vulnerabilities and the risk of attack. However, an intelligent information network that provides segmentation into clinical and non-clinical zones, as well as micro-segmentation by clinical function, is the basis for better management that will see these devices ready for use as soon as called upon. This saves time and ensures security and privacy of data, without a clinician having to worry about the network to which the device is connected.

Furthermore, with an intelligent network that has the ability to provide granularity in traffic monitoring, it can single out not just the specific kind of device, but also the manufacturer, model and firmware state, adding further clarity for efficient orchestration.

To facilitate this, the underlying network needs to have a depth of monitoring and quality of service (QoS) levels to intelligently route and prioritise clinical data, while protecting it at rest and in motion. This can help protect against ransomware in particular, which has seen so many high profile attacks in the sector.

The network needs to have the sophistication to support segmentation and micro-segmentation, as well as active policy control to meet evolving needs, fluid deployment and changing medical and regulatory standards. Geofencing is also critical feature ensuring that while a device can work on approved wards, it cannot be connected or operated outside of approved settings.

IoT management
All of this supports an IoT management application that can specifically identify and appropriately connect medical devices, whether mobile or immobile. For the ambulatory devices that can be moved from patient to patient or ward to ward, there needs to be a geolocation feature that saves time and facilitates coordination of resources, as well as inventory and state of readiness information.

This technology stack of intelligent network, IoT management and geofencing, gives a level of visibility to clinicians, administrators and resource managers that provides immediate utility, while supporting resource management and strategic development, saving time and money in providing the highest levels of care.

This combination of visibility with security is not provided by every technology stack. While some can provide for the basics of network segmentation and access control, not every IoT system is capable of the granularity of identifying make, model and firmware state. Furthermore, few systems can examine traffic alone and make such determinations. These capabilities combined can elevate the capabilities of hospitals and healthcare facilities into a truly digitally transformed state that, supported by ehealth records and paperless systems, truly bring the digital revolution to healthcare.

Leading vendors
Currently, very few vendors have these capabilities. The unique value proposition of Extreme Networks with Cylera, can be deployed on an incremental basis to build these capabilities into existing settings, through standards-based interoperability and unique technologies, implemented by JT Tech as a trusted technology partner.

Extreme Networks can begin deploying equipment to monitor existing networks, end to end, to increase visibility. Cylera’s applications can then provide the granularity of device information that builds into a network status to provide the basis of policies for network segmentation and access control. As equipment is upgraded or replaced, these combined solutions can build to a complete level of visibility and control unrivalled in today’s market.

Even as the European Commission’s MDR sets ever higher standards for medical device certification, Cylera, Extreme Networks and JT Tech can determine what is compliant, what can be upgraded and what needs to removed, while making AI-informed recommendations for security, efficiency and control.

Saving time, saving lives
Lost time for clinicians looking for medical devices that even when found could be misconfigured, non-compliant or simply disconnected, is time that patients need.

JT Tech’s unique portfolio has the capability to begin to address these needs on an incremental basis, building to a previously impossible level of visibility, control and management.

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