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Healthcare gets disrupted by digitalisation like any other sector



Michael Mossal, senior digital transformation director, NTT Ltd. Luxembourg – and CTO office, NTT Europe. (Photo: NTT)

Michael Mossal, senior digital transformation director, NTT Ltd. Luxembourg – and CTO office, NTT Europe. (Photo: NTT)

Due to increasing possibilities of care and people getting older, the current model of patients travelling to a hospital is deemed to change. The healthcare sector gets disrupted by upcoming technologies and consumerization expectations, that might not require patients anymore to cope with challenging and time-consuming travel, to retrieve treatments from doctors.

Telemedicine, telehealth and remote patient monitoring empower patients to receive care from any place. Doctors can make recommendations during video sessions and prescribe treatment remotely. In the same way as wifi networks in a hospital became slowly the foundation of many clinical services and processes, the 5G network tomorrow will have the same or even a bigger impact on healthcare.

Today, in many hospitals, patients and care personnel are already leveraging dedicated smart apps that support clinical or administrative processes within the hospital. Instead of a complex fat client/server application that is addressing multiple purpose use cases, these apps focus on specific dedicated job activities or treatments. Nurses can focus on patients instead of IT. Patients can follow their hospitalisation journey and their treatment; order meals; communicate with other patients; participate and collaborate on their medical file or use apps for entertainment during their stay.

Developing use cases that work outside of a hospital will clearly lead us to the future. But remote monitoring and sophisticated imaging and video equipment will lead into strong network requirements in terms of performance and quality of service. New use cases will define the network requirements of the healthcare industry. Wearables focusing on health are the most significant types of remote monitoring. They tremendously increase the patient engagement with their own health and decrease hospital costs by a significant amount over the next couple of years. As IoT use cases continue to grow, the amount of data on those networks will be tremendous. Body scanning can produce multiple gigabytes of information per patient per study. This service might be needed soon in remotely and requires the network to be as fast as possible and absolutely secure.

The analysis of information will be supported by AI and machine learning. AI also helps to predict if patients risk suffering from post-operative complications and allows in that case early treatment. Large amounts of data are required for real-time learning, while it is at the same time required to access all that data via any kind of mobile devices. Via telemedicine, patients can collaborate with remote experts in video calls and receive guidance through real-time image advice. Telemedicine has network requirements for real-time high-quality video. On top of that, augmented reality (AR) will become the absolute game changer in healthcare. AR is all about getting relevant medical or lifesaving information into the doctors’ field of vision. The life of a patient will in the future not depend on whether the doctor can access the latest and most relevant data in time. Electronic patient record (EPR)/electronic health record (EHR) and AR are fully supporting that vision. Allergies, for example, can be automatically displayed at the very moment when it is relevant for the treatment process. The EPR is patient owned. The patient carries it in a digital form with him at any moment in time. Via the EPR and the connected patient, an ambulance can share critical information with the hospital. The displayed information isn’t static. It can be event driven, enhance the treatment actively, by warning or support messages. Location of veins or organs can be projected on the patient’s body or the surrounding environment. Healthcare becomes more patient centric as the information is always present. Physicians no longer have to go forward and back to consolidate computers. Leveraging AR over distance means that 5G will become mandatory.

The objective is to comply with any kind of future demand on device and patient management, remote patient monitoring, telemedicine and telehealth by introducing a digital health platform. The goal of the platform is to regulate the API communication for apps and IOT heath devices inside and outside a hospital. The communication with the hospital back-end system needs to be reliable and any front-end facing services have to be developed secure by design. Via the front-end APIs the platform offers a full transparency to the regulator.

Many patients have an interest in smart devices that record every step they take, their heart rates, sleeping habits, etc., on a permanent basis. All this vital information can be coupled with other trackable data to identify potential health risks lurking. Health information will be truly in the hand of the patients and they can open it to the parties of their choice.

The recently started project from Hôpitaux Robert Schuman (HRS) and NTT is responding to the “5G call for projects” initiative from the Service des Médias et des Communications (SMC). Under the slogan ‘Bring the doctor to the patient’, the described use cases around 5G did drive the development of the future digital health platform of HRS. The selected platform partner was Microsoft Azure. After the recent success linked to the large-scale testing for Covid with AWS, we now see more and more the impact of cloud native service design in healthcare. The question ‘why Microsoft?’ is easily answered: NTT has a long-term partnership with Microsoft. We have been a Microsoft Partner Advisory Council member for over 15 years now and that partnership was brought to an entirely different level at the end of last year, when NTT and Microsoft decided to form a multi-year strategic alliance to accelerate digital transformation. Azure provides all the necessary services to build and deliver the required business logic within the given timeframe. While AWS is still the market leader, Microsoft has clearly become their first challenger and they benefit from the fact that for most enterprise customers, the step with Microsoft into the public cloud is often seen as less frightening. Further, for most of them the migration toward Microsoft 365 is evident. Finally, the healthcare sector in Luxembourg has managed to secure some contractual agreements with Microsoft that allow their members easy access to all these Microsoft services.

The current project has a timeframe of 12 months and does not expose any patient data into the public cloud. After a successful project, the cloud native development might run in a local data center in Luxembourg. Here, Microsoft offers, via Azure Stack, a possible interesting migration path.

Cet article a été rédigé pour  le supplément Paperjam Plus – ICT  de l’édition magazine de  Paperjam datée de janvier  qui est parue le 17 décembre 2020.

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