How edge computing in hospitals is transforming patient care
Posted by Ido Gur on Jun 29, 2020
Tags: • 5G • IoT • edge computing • Hospital•
Making patient data secure and readily available to drive better healthcare outcomes
The availability of critical information and real-time data analysis is beneficial to every industry. But in the healthcare sector, these factors can quite literally mean the difference between life and death.
Most computing work still happens in one-site data centers or in the cloud. Especially in the case of the latter, analyzing data from a distance presents a number of issues. These include bandwidth congestion, high latency, and poor reliability. Even with today’s 4G LTE networks, these issues can still manifest themselves when every second counts. On top of that, these public networks present a raft of potential security and accessibility issues.
Edge computing aims to address these challenges by bringing data analysis close to the devices where the data is collected. This is especially valuable in situations where data must be acted on immediately, such as is often the case in healthcare scenarios. And, when every second counts, there isn’t time for it to be uploaded to and processed in the cloud.
Ensuring security and compliance by storing patient data locally
Despite the rise of cloud computing, many healthcare facilities still prefer to keep their data stored in on-premises data centers. This gives them more control over matters of compliance and security, and since there’s a reduced need for wider connectivity, there’s also less risk of downtime. In some jurisdictions, keeping data on-premises is even a legal requirement.
An edge computing infrastructure powered by a private 5G mobile network combines the best of both worlds. On one hand, it delivers centralized control and automated security policies. On the other, it keeps data inside the facility so that potential breaches can be detected earlier. Moreover, edge computing-enabled security cameras and sensors can monitor patient health and on-site security in high-risk environments. Because the data is readily available, without being uploaded to a third-party cloud provider, it will be readily accessible for analysis too.
Combined with the power of 5G, communications can also be secured at the hardware level. SIM cards, especially embedded ones (eSIM), guarantee that only allowed devices can connect to the network. By applying the necessary security policies, it’s possible to authorize access to specific services only, such as viewing medical records. That’s because 5G, unlike its predecessor, allows for the creation of private networks where data doesn’t need to go through a mobile network provider. In this respect, it works like a regular WiFi network, albeit with a far greater range and improved performance and latency.
Streaming media-rich content in high-bandwidth environments
The surge of internet-connected technologies means there’s a tremendous amount of data in motion, which can quickly bog down conventional computing networks, including those which revolve around the cloud. This presents a serious challenge in healthcare, where practitioners need easy access to media-rich content like x-rays and MRI scans from mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.
Edge computing helps overcome this challenge by storing and processing data locally, using ultra-fast networks to transmit it. By reducing dependence on centralized cloud servers and distributed local ones, an edge computing cloud allows for a more responsive and accessible infrastructure. For example, using 5G and edge computing medical staff can have immediate access to critical medical information such as MRI scans.
This ultimately results in more timely diagnoses and treatments. The high speed and low latency of an edge cloud powered by a private 5G network makes that possible