The healthcare industry is often seen as lagging when it comes to adopting technology. In this new era, embracing digital is one of the best ways to give patients better care and more value. It’s why some of the leading healthcare providers and governments around the world are accelerating their digital transformation programs and prioritizing investments in technology to meet the growing demands on healthcare systems.

Cisco has been working with a number of leading healthcare organizations in supporting their digital transformation efforts.

Among them is one of Australia and New Zealand’s (ANZ) largest private healthcare organizations with more than 3,000 beds spanning 20 hospital locations, more than 50 small sites embedded deep into the community, and 5,000 medical specialists plus 10,000 staff. They are working with Cisco to build digital into their DNA.

Conversations around digital in the healthcare space – especially in the ANZ region – have been challenging with many recent malicious cybersecurity incidents. These attacks have cost millions in damages and put the public and their data at risk. However, this organization believes their journey to digital is secure thanks to their focus on multi-level security as a foundational building block of their digital strategy.

Their vision is to become the best performing healthcare organization in the ANZ by 2025.

This is an aggressive goal given the significant industry disruption and macro challenges that exist such as changing funding models, talent shortages, and the evolving expectations of patients and clinicians.

To deliver on this vision, the organization is looking for transformation along three strategic themes: patient and client experiences, clinical excellence, and service profile transformation. These new service profiles will rely heavily on digitization as they look to expand into new markets and new geographies whilst managing significant human capital constraints. A key focus has also been on enabling key values such as hospitality, compassion, respect, justice, and excellence, to transcend the four walls of the hospital and prevail in these new data driven, virtualized care processes so that they can assure a differentiated, and market leading patient experience.

With this focus on digital transformation – which is now a core pillar of the business strategy, the organization published a digital strategy and embarked on modernizing their digital infrastructure to ensure accelerated time to value of services as well as supporting improved user experiences, all whilst lowering business risk. An early step in the journey was to rethink everything around its infrastructure – especially how it is architected, deployed, and operated.

Armed with a robust digital strategy and a clear roadmap – the team is reaching milestone after milestone faster than they could imagine. This is largely driven by the fact that the organization fully understand that the future is software-defined and one powered by automation, security, and assurance needed to thrive in the new era, delivering new-age user experiences to all stakeholders.

Getting to a more digitally resilient, future-ready state

Thanks to the digital mandate and strategy exercise that the organization went through, they realized that the success of their journey to digital will depend on their ability to leverage cloud and SaaS to support greater standardization and accelerated time to value of evolved data services.  Also, the business wanted to transform corporate services such as finance, ERP, and HR to remove overheads and costs from the business. This required a wholesale redesign of their network to access those applications securely, reliably, and seamlessly. That’s the only way to stay compliant with privacy laws prevailing in the healthcare space as well as provide the experience that staff & patients desire.

Cisco’s end to end, software-defined, multi-domain digital architecture helped lay out an effective path to rearchitecting the network while also allowing the team to shift resources away from ongoing management. Capabilities such as advanced network automation capabilities, better visibility, and smarter security controls from Cisco’s vast portfolio of products have made all of this possible.

Thanks to the software-defined route adopted by the organization, segmentation of the network became possible which ultimately provided significant IT controls as well as security benefits. This was especially useful in becoming ‘future-ready’ as the rapid proliferation of devices is expected over the next few months powered by SD-WAN & LAN.

Spanning IT to OT and everything in between

Rearchitecting its network and moving to a software-defined architecture allowed the healthcare organization to dramatically expand the Wi-Fi capabilities it offered to staff and patients on its campus. The new devices brought to life by the new network help scan patient tags and bracelets and build better, safer processes around disbursing medications, deciding on menu options for meals, and so on.

Their digital strategy and new network investment also allow the team to better look after their operational technology (OT). They can tag assets and manage them better, making sure their use is authorized and optimized at every moment in time.

Think of the myriad sonography machines, portable x-rays, electrocardiograms, and more – they’re usually wheeled around the campus and sometimes between campuses – using the network as a location service, we can ensure they’re always physically within certain digitally created perimeters & boundaries and accessed only by the right technicians. Collecting data around the use of these assets could also potentially feed into maintenance optimizations in the future, after all, the organization has opened the floodgates to innovation with its digital strategy.

To be completely honest, the ability of the healthcare organization to leverage its network to secure its IT and OT is of utmost importance now that the federal government in Australia has set certain guidelines and standards in place.

Their digital strategy seems to already be getting external validation as a result – and allowing the team tasked with the digital mandate to be confident that they are compliant and moving forward in the right direction.

Speaking of IT and OT security, applying updates and security patches to devices on the network in real time is now possible, thanks to the intelligent, software-defined architecture deployed by the organization. By itself, this can reduce vulnerabilities and protect against threats that they would have otherwise been vulnerable to.

Future-ready and charting the next phase 

Having moved from one milestone to another on its journey to digital, the healthcare organization is future-ready and resilient, but what does that really mean?

Thanks to a more intelligent network and software defined architecture, assets are managed digitally, the flow of people within the campus can be monitored and managed seamlessly, and staff can fully leverage their SaaS and cloud applications right from their tablets.

There is also better security with policies enabling better segmentation of the network and management of devices to ultimately ensure risks from threat vectors are minimized, patient files remain confidential, and operational workflows are protected from malicious attacks.

In addition, it is now able to leverage Webex and help amplify the reach of its clinicians to allow them to connect with patients in other sites or even at home.

The leaders at healthcare organizations recognize that this new era of technology is driven by business needs. IT can no longer dictate which software application to use or what device to onboard. Specialty departments and team leaders will decide what tools they need, which vendors best support their missions, and IT will need to provision for them and ensure they can deliver the best experience while doing it.

This is the model of the future. It’s the path to delivering the best patient care and the best results to all stakeholders possible. In this organization, the transformation wasn’t just wholesale, it was wholesome.