Healthcare organizations have already embraced the cloud, with healthcare applications such as contact centers, electronic medical records (EMR), and health information systems (HIS) driving cloud adoption. Now, cloud network infrastructure management is on the near horizon. Our recent survey found that while only 14% of healthcare organizations leverage cloud network management today, 41% have plans to move their infrastructure management into the cloud in the next 1-5 years.
Technological change is a difficult decision, and there is always some risk. You can act, which risks energy and resources. Or you can stay in your current situation and risk having technology pass you by, so you’re playing catch up later. Acting is a choice. As the field of medicine continues to advance technologically, you will need to make choices to both keep pace and mitigate risk.
For healthcare organizations that are starting to look at the benefits of cloud-managed networking, I wanted to offer guidance with three golden nuggets of advice on where to get started with cloud management in a very targeted way.
Due to the ongoing space constraints within hospitals, more and more supporting functions (i.e. finance) are moving into office spaces outside the hospital campus. Without patients and medical devices, these remote offices represent an easy way to get started with cloud management to provide support staff with reliable connectivity, without a heavy administrative burden.
Remote clinics represent another opportunity to get started. Previous healthcare models using multiple disconnected health systems to provide separate episodes of care are being phased out. The shift towards enhancing patient outcomes is leading to more consolidation across the healthcare industry. Assisted living facilities have been successfully using cloud-based network management for their numerous distributed locations for many years. This same success easily translates over to remote clinics.
So, what does this mean for networking and IT teams? The ability to onboard new locations and clinics quickly and painlessly is a critical requirement. A cloud-based solution is well-suited for centralized management of network infrastructure in numerous remote locations, without the need for any onsite IT support. With automated onboarding and provisioning, as well as simple templates to enable services, onboarding new locations and clinics can be done quickly and efficiently.
Wi-Fi is where cloud-managed solutions originated for networking, so it represents the most logical place to start. Cloud management for Wi-Fi networks has been time-tested in many verticals, and the capabilities are mature. Always remember that Wi-Fi is an access layer technology for patients, guests, and employees to gain easy and secure entry into the network. Therefore, any cloud should simplify the onboarding process of Wi-Fi security credentials for access points (APs) and clients.
Cloud architecture is needed to collect, process, and analyze vast amounts of network and Wi-Fi client-generated data and then translate it down to consumable and actionable insights for healthcare IT departments. A cloud-based network management solution (NMS) can provide real-time and historical visibility into APs, clients, and users for an entire enterprise healthcare network. A best-of-breed cloud solution will give you complete visibility into the Wi-Fi user experience.
Clear and explainable Wi-Fi troubleshooting tools already exist to pinpoint any issues via the cloud. Mature cloud solutions also use machine learning (ML) capabilities to eliminate false positives so that an IT admin will not waste time and only focus on real problems with a fast path towards resolution.
Does your cloud vendor have an all-encompassing plan for network management and monitoring? The ultimate goal is to have end-to-end management and visibility of your entire network. Your cloud-based NMS should also simplify the onboarding and troubleshooting of access switches. Branch routers and VPN cloud management and visibility are also often needed for the previously mentioned remote offices and clinics.
There are many questions you should ask yourself when selecting a vendor. Does your cloud vendor also provide a path for the management of distribution and data center switching? How about wired clients? Does your cloud NMS provide a simple onboarding and security solution that is designed to protect high risk, wired patient monitoring equipment, and IoT devices? How about other management applications such as guest management, location tracking, and wireless intrusion prevention solutions (WIPS)? Are these applications also integrated under one cloud umbrella?
The goal of cloud management is to unify and simplify. However, disparate management systems are anything but simple. Look for a complete cloud solution that can address the big picture.
These three action items are more than enough to get you started. However, cloud management also has compliance and security implications. In my next blog, I will discuss compliance the importance of cloud data and security certifications.