Living with a chronic health issue – like heart failure or diabetes – can mean multiple visits to the doctor’s office and daily tracking of vital signs. It’s these types of patients who have the most to gain from the rapid growth of telehealth, which allows them to meet with doctors virtually for ongoing care needs and share monitoring stats in real time.
While the wheels of telehealth were in motion pre-2020, especially in rural communities, COVID-19 accelerated the demand for, and acceptance of, telehealth services – particularly video consultations – among both patients and providers.
As this these and other telehealth services become more common, it becomes a kind of virtuous cycle. Patients become more and more comfortable with video consultations for certain types of checkups, and doctors using them find that they are able to provide more patient care during the workday.
And while patients still prefer in-person visits, 42% of adults say their trust in telehealth has improved in the past 12 months, according to Mintel’s November 2020, “Changing Face of U.S. Healthcare,” report.
Data also show that hospitals are investing more in these services as patients begin to embrace them. Prior to the pandemic, 26% of health care executives said the shift to telehealth and virtual care was a top innovation priority, according to a Center for Connected Medicine survey from early 2020. Last summer, that percentage jumped to 49%, according to a follow-up survey.
Now that both patients and providers have cleared the initial telehealth hurdles, telehealth isn’t going away after the pandemic.
But this growth puts considerable strain on hospital connectivity infrastructure. Health care organizations will need to ensure their buildings and infrastructures are updated to accommodate both today’s and tomorrow’s telehealth demands.
It means hospitals will increasingly need fiber-rich networks, combining 5G and edge technology, to meet this growing demand, and to further increase hospital productivity (and thus lower health care costs).
Establishing an IT Infrastructure for Telehealth
Corning has been deeply involved in the health care vertical for years, and currently provides fiber and cellular service to thousands of customers in the space.
So, when a midwestern hospital system wanted to upgrade its networking infrastructure to meet new telehealth demands, Corning worked with the organization to plan for its current and future needs.
Through this partnership, in addition to our other long-standing relationships with medical facilities, we uncovered three main areas health care organizations need to consider as they build out their IT infrastructures:
1. Fast, reliable internet service
Diagnostic images, daily patient logs, and now video consultation services can create a heavy networking burden. And when patient health is on the line, spotty service or frequent disconnections are not acceptable. This is why we are strong supporters of efforts to increase rural broadband, as often these are parts of the country that suffer from a dearth of health care options. Telehealth is a logical and relatively inexpensive way to meet this need. Corning’s fiber-deep in-building network solutions can provide fast, reliable service that can handle increased data loads.
2. Security considerations and upgrades
While data security is crucial for all industries, health care comes with increased concerns around HIPAA compliance. That’s where Enterprise RANs (E-RANs) come into play. E-RANs, like Corning’s Everon™ E-RAN Platform, encrypts data and ensures hackers can’t access stored data or data in transit.
Telehealth will undoubtedly evolve over time, and with it, IT needs will evolve, too. To ensure systems are built for the future, it’s imperative to build a scalable “fiber power” infrastructure for both next generation LAN lines and 5G systems that will be coming in the next few months. For example, a southeastern health care system leveraged the Corning® Everon Building Wireless System to help it plan for future IT needs. The fiber deep scalable solution enabled the system to save money when adding future services, such as increased bandwidth and public safety applications.
For more information on enterprise connectivity, check out our At Home With Corning series