The healthcare sector has always been more conservative than most when designing its data center infrastructure. The standard reason for this is that health services need to take every possible measure to protect the privacy of patient data.

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But things are changing extremely fast in the post-Covid world, and stored silos of data now represent an even greater social risk, as the infrastructure used by the sector is itself becoming a tool for the more effective delivery of health and well being.

Digital healthcare, the fastest growing part of the sector, is leading this charge. AI-based monitoring is improving patient treatment, interpreting medical imagery and generating real-time reports. Augmented reality (AR) apps are delivering better education, new therapies and surgical visualization. The internet of medical things (IoMT) is taking off, connecting medical devices, wearables, ingestible sensors and apps linked to healthcare IT systems.

According to Precedence Research digital healthcare will more than quadruple in size from its current $300 billion to more than $1.3 trillion by 2030, but it will require new dispersed data architectures that can tap into cloud AI and ML services, and connect practitioners and patients to the IoMT.

Pooling data

Shaken by the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic and recognising the vital role that accessible data will play in improving public health and cutting costs, industry leaders and regulators are pushing hard for greater interoperability.

New regulations and frameworks, like the Universal Healthcare Initiative in India or the Health Data Space framework in the EU, have been launched to try to tackle this. Good interoperability can drive deeper learning and faster diagnosis, speed-up reaction times to health emergencies, manage resources more efficiently, and power new types of preventative medicine and online therapies.

Ensuring security

As in the enterprise world, the need to share data cannot be allowed to compromise data security and privacy. Healthcare businesses will always need some secure segregated storage, and there is a world of difference between personal and anonymized medical data.

Tagged data and new layered security architectures will be needed to protect electronic medical records (EMRs), based on a hybrid private/public cloud architecture.

At the data center level, facilities will need comprehensive physical security overlaid with certified data security processes, such as ISO 27001, SSAE18 SOC 2 (Type II)/SOC 3*, PCI-DSS, and ISO -50001. In North America these include NIST SP 800-53*,FISMA HIGH, FedRAMP and HIPAA (Type I); in Asia OSPAR; in EMEA ISO 450001 and 9001.

Hospitals without walls

Collaboration will be key to the success of digital healthcare. New partnerships, physically expressed as APIs and cross connects, will power innovation and enable consumer/patient reach.

Huge investments are being made in cloud-based well-being and treatment apps that will revolutionize personal health in the coming years. To leverage these, healthcare IT systems will need to connect to cloud providers at multiple points, and extend their outreach to the edge, where specialist facilities can process large amounts of data close to the user or patient without causing traffic bottlenecks.

Data center architecture

A new paper from Iron Mountain Data Centers sets out the key global drivers that are moving the industry in this direction. It also proposes an ultra-connected hybrid colocation model for digital healthcare which can shift data and workloads from core to cloud to edge quickly and securely.