In the digital age, security has been a top concern for healthcare leaders – especially with malicious agents and bad actors constantly looking to steal data, stall operations, and sabotage hospital facilities for financial payouts. It’s why many of the large healthcare facilities in the world have been hesitant to fully modernize and leverage technology to its full potential. 

 However, modernization is the need of the hour. Patients, staff, and even government agencies are advocating for their healthcare leaders to embrace technology.  

 Moving to the cloud, which is often seen as a first step to modernization, will help integrate systems, allow data to flow between various platforms, and enable staff to optimize processes such as record keeping, insurance management, and more. It will also enable remote and hybrid work and foster collaboration with external bodies such as research organizations & academic institutions. Getting the move to the cloud right is critical because it can unlock unique synergistic opportunities by leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), digital twins, and artificial intelligence (AI). 

 So far, the security risk to IT modernization has been the biggest impediment to leveraging technology.   

This is especially true for massive hospital networks that exist around the world. The mandate for them not only involves developing a blueprint to migrate to the cloud and leverage a mix of on-premise and cloud-based solutions, but also to connect the various facilities in its network to deliver on the promise of a unified and integrated, digitally-empowered hospital network. 

Recently, with hybrid multi-cloud and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions reaching a more mature phase and the concept of secure networking finally being realized, it looks like healthcare leaders have an opportunity to accelerate their modernization projects.  

After all, the network, which serves as the bridge connecting hybrid users to their hybrid applications, is the sole control point with a comprehensive view of every connection. It’s not just a bridge, but a sentinel— our first line of defense in the digital space, protecting organizations as they modernize at scale. 

The secure networking playbook for healthcare organizations  

Our customer in Asia is a nationalized healthcare network with around 200 facilities and nearly 100,000 medical, para-medical, non-medical, and administrative staff. 

Over a decade ago, their operational system and informational system were partitioned over a decade ago. The compromise enabled them to adopt some technology while bringing in a certain degree of security to the organization. However, in its modernization plan, integrating the two – aside from integrating its various facilities – was a priority. Based on evaluations, complete integration was the only way to efficiently rationalize organizational processes and get the best performance and most gains out of the modernization effort. 

In the new era, the hospital network has deployed a hybrid multi-cloud solution. They’ve configured it with a variety of factors in mind, including the needs of its employees, partners, and various stakeholders, prevailing data storage and privacy laws in the country, and need for uptime and availability, cost, and more. The way they’re securing it all is through secure networking. 

The organization has deployed SD-WAN and SASE, two solutions that enabled the organization to see everything in its network; every user, connection, transaction, and platform. Having complete visibility and transparency brings them a degree of comfort and control that they would not otherwise be able to find – which ultimately plays into the way they secure every user, device, and application. 

From the looks of it, the sheer scale of the project should have put enormous strain on the IT team managing the transition – however, SD-WAN and SASE, as technologies, are easy to manage and seamless. Further, their biggest advantage is that they’re built for scale. 

The centralized network management, for example, enables the team to manage, monitor, and secure itself from a single dashboard, and automate user and device management through policies. The granular traffic control these solutions offer helps manage traffic dynamically to ensure that the right people have access to the right systems and platforms (such as the Electronic Health Records system) – and can do so reliably and securely. Both SD-WAN and SASE also naturally help protect the organization from internal and external threats. 

The biggest advantage for the hospital network is that secure networking – with these two technologies and more – is entirely scalable. As the organization decides to deploy and scale AI, IoT, and other advancements to optimize its multi-cloud infrastructure and advanced network, secure networking can scale flexibly to continue to keep the organization secure. 

To better understand secure networking, you can read my last blogpost here. 

The end goal is to deliver better experiences, without exception 

In this new era, the goal for every organization is to deliver better experiences to its stakeholders. Without exception.  

Patients want a great experience – they want to be able to see their health records online; book lab tests and access results virtually; leverage tele-health facilities, connect state and personal insurance plans so they can manage bills seamlessly, and do more. Staff want to make the most of hybrid work capabilities to optimize their own time and balance life. Vendors and partners want to be integrated via platforms so they can deliver better experiences to their own customers and also build new solutions to optimize their own operations. 

Our customer’s decision to embrace the cloud and protect themselves with secure networking is a smart decision – the roadmap to completion is far less complicated and far more secure than any other solution could offer. Of course, since all the solutions are from Cisco’s portfolio, they all connect with each other seamlessly to offer more robust protection than possible from any combination of vendors in the market. 

Together, thanks to the experience and expertise of teams on both sides of the table, secure networking has been a boon to the healthcare provider’s network, one that enables it to leapfrog into the new era despite its scale. This organization is prepared for the future and could soon become a point of reference among peers health networks in the region and even globally.