SUMMARY: Healthcare IT faces a new wave of challenges due to rising expectations on what the network can do. But, by embracing the concept of “Be like water” from Bruce Lee, which means to be flexible and adaptable, like water, to overcome challenges, IT leaders can develop new technology strategies that allow them to support the delivery of high-quality patient care for years to come.
Previously in the blog, “3 Healthcare IT Questions with No Answers,” as part of the “Providing Care in the Age of the Infinite Enterprise” series, I outlined how the pandemic gave rise to a new era of technology, a vision we call the Infinite Enterprise. Then I shared how three critical healthcare transitions validate Extreme’s technology vision. These transitions elicit three questions with no good answer, or in the case of many, a clear and resounding “NO” as an answer.
For those of you with “No” for an answer, there is a flood coming that will worsen the challenges you’re facing, and it’s time to look for new ways to alleviate the pressure today and mitigate the problems the future presents.
Johnny Cash famously asked, “How high is the water mama?” in his song “Five Feet High and Rising,” and while flooding levies may not be a threat to IT Healthcare, the rising level of expectation on what the network can do is. Reaching farther, integrating more, supporting everything securely with existing infrastructure, fewer staff and less budget, that’s the future for everyone unless something changes.
Today, IT Leaders can say, “We don’t support Apple Watch data.” They can delay a date when a system from an acquired facility will be integrated into the technology stack. They might even be able to run multiple distinct networks from campus to campus, from hospital to clinic.
But not forever. Expectations are rising.
You don’t need a global pandemic to upend the status quo. It only takes one small innovation to catalyze a wave of transformation projects that make what was once unsupported, the standard.
So, what can you do?
Consider this Bruce Lee quote from his 1971 Longstreet character Li Tsung:
Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless—Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot; it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.
The concepts and assumptions that were true when your legacy systems were installed are no longer valid; the pandemic made sure of that. So clinging to old ways of thinking may freeze you, limiting your options when you need to flow. To give yourself the best shot at overcoming the challenges of the future, you should consider these three strategies:
“One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” –Bruce Lee
In Healthcare, there is still some hesitation around accepting fabric technology. Yet concepts like Zero Trust Network Administration (ZTNA) are wildly popular. Before investing in technologies that ride on your legacy network, it would be beneficial to see what fabric offers.
One of the advantages of ZTNA is to limit lateral movement with Zero Trust. The same thing is accomplished through Fabric’s hyper-segmentation concepts. Organizations can use hyper-segmentation to create borders to defend against unauthorized lateral movement, reduce their attack profile, provide highly effective breach isolation, improve the effectiveness of anomaly scanning and significantly increase the value of specialist security appliances.
The purpose of stealth networking is to reduce network visibility to minimize the potential for attacks. When using Stealth networking, the IP topology of the network is hidden since forwarding is dependent on ethernet-switched channels. Since IP paths are not intrinsically hop-by-hop, standard IP scanning tools cannot determine the network topology.
Another crucial component of stealth networking is the lack of service layer visibility by aggregation nodes and core nodes. Network edges encapsulate services instead. Hackers can’t attack what they can’t see.
With the Shortest Path Bridging capabilities of Fabric technology, enterprise networks can be designed, deployed and managed more efficiently. It has been challenging for network IT teams to move at the speed of business due to the long wait times for network changes and additions and the rigid design constraints of legacy networks. In addition to eliminating these delays, fabric enables IT teams to implement far more agile networks to roll out applications faster and provision services more efficiently – while improving their networks’ reliability, stability and security.
“Not being tense but ready. Not thinking but not dreaming. Not being set but flexible. Liberation from the uneasy sense of confinement. It is being wholly and quietly alive, aware and alert, ready for whatever may come.” –Bruce Lee
While the benefits of fabric technology for security and network simplification as it relates to IT staffing limitations and the drive to consolidate the industry, the need to optimize for application performance is a necessity, especially for systems with an imperative to distribute patient care. In these situations, SD-WAN becomes more critical where network bandwidth at the edge may be limited and less reliable than at the main hospital campus. Further, as care reaches into patients’ very homes, the ability to ensure some quality of service (QoS) may become an emergent requirement.
The lifeblood of a modern healthcare system is the electronic health record (EHR). However, as these applications grow in scope and connect to more devices and services, the amount of bandwidth required to move data quickly over various network types becomes a bottleneck that affects clinical productivity at the edge. As a result, SD-WAN technology can connect users and sites securely and at scale. It also can automatically discover over 5,000 applications, simplifying network configuration and identifying shadow IT.
SD-WAN technologies that provide Application Performance Management offer these additional benefits:
Fabric was previously mentioned as a technology you should consider leveraging, but when enabling Application Performance Management through SD-WAN technologies, you can extend the capabilities to the network’s edge. While IT teams have benefited from Fabric on their main campuses, the ability to enjoy the benefits throughout the system, all the way to clinics, further simplifies the management of resources by your understaffed teams.
Your ability to enable the next generation of patient care, powered by technology running on your network, requires you to ensure your network’s always-on, ever-resilient availability. This means unified management of all networks on a single pane of glass, delivering centralized configuration and management for wired, wireless and SD-WAN devices and detailed observability for LAN-to-cloud performance monitoring that improves operational efficiency and effectiveness.
“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”—Bruce Lee
Today, there are thousands of devices under your responsibility and massive applications running on your network that accelerate patient care delivery for clinicians all over your healthcare delivery system. More are on the way. This reality necessitates giving your team a force multiplier that can help them.
Investment in AIOps is on the rise. Organizations understand that the exponential growth of the network is outstripping their resources to support it. Budgets are limited, and talent isn’t available in the labor market, so AIOps technology is the practical solution to increase productivity and support better business outcomes.
The benefits of leveraging AIOps are clear. Gaining the ability to streamline workflows for your team and simplify troubleshooting of errors by reducing false alarms and providing solution recommendations for real issues that arise. This is because the data supplied by AIOps is simplified in an easily understandable way, is auditable and has built-in capabilities that add explanations to the alerts and tells why a solution is recommended. This means that less experienced staff can be trusted with tasks because they have a decision support system constantly learning and searching for anomalies.
Change Management is another challenge facing understaffed IT Teams that Digital Twin capabilities can help address. No matter how painstakingly thorough a team is when they test new hardware that enters the network, there is always a risk that a minor difference between test and production could create the need for a rollback. In healthcare, these disruptions could affect surgery schedules or other life-critical processes in the hospital. Digital Twin allows teams to validate deployments and deliver configuration assurances, reducing time to implementation from weeks or months to hours or days.
“When there is freedom from mechanical conditioning, there is simplicity. The classical man is just a bundle of routine, ideas and tradition. If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow – you are not understanding yourself.” – Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Do, 1975
Bruce Lee saw the limitations of traditional martial arts. Pragmatism was often ignored in favor of rigid philosophy that lost its efficacy when tested in modern, real-world experiences. The same can be true for your approach to the problems afflicting healthcare IT today. You can keep with your rigid architecture and avoid implementing the flexibility of fabric technology. You can fight for the budget to hire more help, or you can implement AIOps-powered Cloud Management and elevate the productivity of your existing team. You can keep pushing back against the coming tide or connect everything through SD-WAN and increase application performance from the hospital campus to the neighborhood clinic.
Either way, it’s time to rethink your strategy to deliver your organization’s business outcomes. If you’d like to start your transformation and accelerate your evolution to go with the flow of emerging technology, Extreme Networks is here to help.