Cisco recently had the opportunity to work with a large hospital network in Victoria, Australia.

This network has more than 15 hospitals and clinics that service one of the largest geographical areas of any metropolitan health service in Victoria. They provide a range of specialist services to people and communities that are diverse in culture, age, socio-economic status, and healthcare needs.

With continual staff shortages and pressure on budgets, many healthcare facilities take the traditional line of sweating IT assets and poaching staff from other facilities that are already stretched. The life of most of these assets in the healthcare space is between 7 and 14 years – but a lot has changed in that time; In fact, since 2020, we’ve seen a paradigm shift in IT driven by consumer demand, the shifting workforce demographic and external global influences.

Even in the healthcare space, IT now plays a dominant role. Leaders are exploring artificial intelligence (AI)-powered applications to analyze test reports and internet of things (IoT)-powered devices and 5G networks to enable surgeons to perform surgeries from across the world.

In most parts of the world, tele-health or mobile-health applications that bridge the gap between clinicians and patients needing consultations and prescriptions are standard.

The board for this particular network is fortunate to have IT-savvy leaders that understand the importance of betting on ‘digital’. Their executive team was given a mandate to prepare the hospital for a future-ready digital state.

Despite the clear vision, the path to digital is challenging. This is not a greenfield build that can be planned from scratch. Relying on government funds means leaders need to make the most of every dollar, stretching budgets and delivering results with every cheque they write. Going digital means making wholesale changes to everything.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Before making any decision in haste, the team formulated a plan that could accommodate its funding cycle as well as the scope and scale of its vision. The goal is to leverage technology to re-think its model and provide patients and the community with the best care possible.

Working with Cisco allowed their team to gain access to a strong network of reliable partners with deep experience in the healthcare space. With the right advice, the team was able to determine what the journey to the future-state could look like. Based on the journey map and numerous cost-benefit analyses, time and resource evaluations, and more, the team came up with a plan.

Executives in the team believe Cisco and its partner ecosystem played a major role in turning their vision into a concrete plan and in getting the project off the ground.

At its core, the plan involves upgrading the infrastructure and adopting a software-defined architecture (SDA), a robust SD-WAN network, and software solutions to keep people and devices connected securely across the length and breadth of their campuses. The scale of all that is beautiful – but what’s most exciting is the simplicity with which all of this is being deployed and the person-hours it saves and will continue to save their IT team.

All of this brings a level of automation, visibility, and observability that allows the IT team to be more efficient, focusing on red flags that really matter, and using dashboards to make proactive decisions about resources to deliver stellar experiences for a wide array of applications.

Developing this plan with expert advice from the right partners has helped the healthcare network ensure staff are able to create more value. The IT team can better contribute to driving new business initiatives instead of being tied up with mundane tasks; other staff can have more time to attend to patients and their needs thanks to software tools that work seamlessly and boost productivity.

Yes, the plan has been matched to the asset lifecycle already deployed in these facilities – but it also means, as soon as financially prudent, IT assets are being replaced to deliver a smarter digital outcome to every stakeholder.

It’s easy to see how all this makes a good business case in favor of going digital – but that’s not the end of it. Thanks to the new technology that’s being rolled out, their board and executive team will be able to reach farther in the digital era seizing new opportunities as they’re identified. After all, a strong digital backbone makes it easy to respond to customer needs with agility and speed.

Security-minded from the get-go

This Hospital group had always taken its responsibility to guard sensitive customer’s personally identifiable data – medical history and financial records – seriously. It’s why the mandate recognized the need to ensure security was part of every step it took in its journey to digital.

The community and government entities both expect leaders in the healthcare space to think about security in a holistic way. Working with Cisco and its partners not only assured of assisting in establishing critical IT focused government-mandated standards and controls but is also able to leverage industry-leading security solutions that protect its data, network, operations, and more, without requiring too much oversight from IT teams.

The plan to go digital has been a big success so far. They’re not the first in Australia to have reached their current state of digital maturity – but they are certainly among the few at the top of the list.

This network delivers over a million episodes of patient care annually. Today, they are future-ready and are prepared to improve each one of those million-plus episodes of patient care in some way with the use of technology. What this network is doing is what every institution in the healthcare space should strive for – it is the right thing to do, it is what patients need.