Healthcare organisations are under more strain than ever before as they grapple with the ongoing Coronavirus crisis. This increased workload is also coupled with the changing work practices accompanying the shift to remote working. IT infrastructure is, therefore, proving crucial in supporting workforces needing access to systems and private networks from home as well as cope with the increase in demand. Speedy adaptation is a key capability of cloud technology and is, therefore, able to offer options around flexibility and pace of change, helping to solve short-term problems as well as providing future-proofed solutions going forwards. It is clear that the health sector needs to embrace cloud technology and reap the rewards it can provide now and in the future.

The ability to scale

During the ongoing pandemic, mammoth amounts of data are being produced daily. Secure cloud connectivity can be used to access the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) or other private networks to share vital patient data in the fight against Coronavirus, and can be utilised remotely for healthcare workers at home. With cloud-native network connectivity platforms you do not require physical hardware to manage and make changes to your infrastructure, so deployment is rapid – essential in these unprecedented times.

Facilitating remote working

Remote access infrastructure has not been designed to cope with the volumes of traffic currently occurring with most employees working remotely. On top of this, the healthcare industry hasn’t traditionally been designed for remote working, which means organisations must adapt in response to Coronavirus challenges. Putting in place secure access connectivity can alleviate the short-term pain for organisations by enabling them to operate a more distributed architecture as opposed to a centralised architecture for their network. Secure cloud connectivity platforms enable remote access to applications, and private networks and data from a broad range of devices with no additional hardware, meaning productivity can easily continue with people working remotely.

For example, technology provider Q doctor, which removes barriers for patients to access medical advice and treatment, needed an end-to-end connectivity solution to connect its software with the HSCN in order to access clinical systems for clinicians to be able to treat patients remotely. Q doctor needed its HSCN connection capacity upgraded to provide virtual workspace software alongside the existing video consultations solution. A week from the initial engagement, the cloud connectivity solution had been provisioned and onboarded, meaning within just 48 hours, over 300 clinicians were able to access, manage, transfer and share patient data remotely so effective patient treatment could resume.

Agility versus security

Organisations can often make the mistake of investing in new technology without considering the business needs and the risks it can pose. Given healthcare companies have vast amounts of confidential data, it is crucial that key services can continue to treat patients and that such data is safeguarded.

Major data hacks have proven that outdated healthcare systems are vulnerable to attack. For example, the 2017 WannaCry cyber attack severely disrupted patient services, affecting a third of hospital trusts and costing the NHS £92 million. The healthcare industry cannot afford a repeat of such an attack, especially during a global health crisis.

Consequently, ensuring secure infrastructure exists to route traffic, enforce security policies and reduce the risk of cyber attacks is key for the continued success of organisations. With cloud connectivity foundations, organisations are able to diversify their data and applications to reduce the impact if something goes wrong, and can scale this up and down according to need. This can help avoid repeating the damage inflicted by previous hacks such as the aforementioned WannaCry attack.

However, without a secure access platform, cloud solutions could provide more entry points for criminals to exploit. This can be solved by ensuring visibility is made a priority as cyber decisions cannot be made with incomplete data. Centralising connectivity helps to establish a single source of truth, so that cyber teams have greater visibility to monitor activity and enforce security protocols across the whole network.

Implementing cloud technologies ultimately enables healthcare organisations to improve patient outcomes and proactively build an agile network, while also ensuring better integrated risk management, flexibility and elasticity in the use of applications – all resulting in potential cost savings, particularly for the NHS.

The road ahead

As well as solving short-term remote working challenges, cloud platforms can form a foundation for future change. Cloud technology can, further down the line, be used as a strategic component for further transformation of IT infrastructure. With the date that lockdown will be lifted still unknown, organisations adopting cloud platforms will be able to scale to cope with whatever remote working demands are made of it.

There is no doubt that healthcare organisations can benefit from the flexibility, cost reduction and agility that results in bringing cloud technology into play. It is imperative, though, that an agile and secure network is put in place to ensure healthcare systems can continue to operate in a flexible manner, while maintaining security and confidentiality.