The health care industry is undergoing digital transformation. The U.S. digital health market is expected to grow 26% annually until 2024. This steady growth rate is due to greater use of smartphones and monitoring devices by doctors and patients as part of mobile health (or mHealth) initiatives. The trend toward telehealth includes the use of video consultations to make diagnoses and prescribe treatment plans.
All these health care technology trends rely on low-latency connectivity to work optimally. Information needs to move quickly and safely from mobile devices to be stored as data in electronic health records (EHRs). Complex images need to be transmitted, stored, and easily accessed to make diagnoses. A high-speed fiber optic network ensures that medical institutions can transmit health care data efficiently and securely, opening more options for communication between health care providers and patients.
Here’s a closer look at 5 ways low-latency connectivity improves health care:
1) Patient Access
Not all patients have equal access to health care. Some people live in rural areas, far from big hospitals and specialists. Other patients have busy schedules that make it difficult to attend regular appointments. Still others may have trouble getting around because they are disabled or lack transportation. In recognition of this problem, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced that the organization will increase funding for rural health care programs by $171 million to help finance telemedicine.
Connectivity makes it possible for patients to schedule web consultations with doctors. These web consultations enable the patient and doctor to confer face to face no matter where they are located. The doctor can use web video to see any visual symptoms. With a high-speed network, these interactions between patient and doctor take place in real time. The images and audio are high-resolution and don’t experience any jitter.
2) Collaboration Between Treatment Team Members
The members of a treatment team can’t always be in the same place at the same time. When patients are hospitalized, their doctors may need to consult with their primary care physician or a specialist. In an emergency, EMTs need to access information from the patient’s medical history to get a complete picture. Patients sometimes visit urgent care centers that don’t have access to their records.
With connectivity, all these health care providers can communicate with one another. Fiber optic connectivity makes unified communications (UC) possible, so doctors, EMTs, and patients can interact over voice, instant messaging, and web conferencing.
3) Better Emergency Care
Connectivity is especially crucial during an emergency. An emergency can happen anywhere. For example, after a car accident, first responders may need to act quickly on a roadside. Being out in the field, miles away from the nearest health care facility, they need a quick way to access medical resources for treatment on-site.
Massachusetts-based swyMed has developed the DOT Telemedicine Backpack to empower paramedics to gather complex information and make critical diagnoses in the field. The backpack has the capability to set up a video conference with a doctor. It contains tools such as a stethoscope and an ultrasound. Using fiber optics, medical scans and data from the instruments contained in the backpack can be sent for analysis in seconds instead of minutes, enabling a quicker diagnosis.
Every second makes a difference in the victim’s survival. The faster he or she can be stabilized, the better.
4) Real-Time Monitoring
For patients with chronic health conditions, having current and accurate information about vital signs is crucial to their survival. Diabetics need their blood-sugar levels monitored. Patients with hypertension or heart failure must keep track of their blood pressure and heart rate.
Wearables capture this information, but the data collected needs to be immediately accessible to health care providers so alarming trends can be detected. High-speed connectivity ensures data from the monitor is transmitted at the speed of light so timely alerts can be sent when medical intervention is needed.
5) Secure Data Transmission
The digitization of health care creates ample opportunities for hackers to access sensitive personal information about patients. As information passes back and forth between the hospital’s data center, doctors, and patients, it can be intercepted by cybercriminals who can sell it for top dollar on the black market or use it to commit insurance fraud.
Fiber optics provides secure and reliable connectivity for health care institutions. Fiber optic cables are more difficult to hack into than copper cables. Fiber optics is also impervious to water, electrical interference, and extreme pressure. When hospitals use a fiber optic network, they can rest easy knowing that medical information won’t get stolen, lost, or compromised.
Making the Health Care Connection
As health care becomes increasingly digitized, connectivity becomes more and more important. Health care organizations need to partner with technology providers with solutions that are backed up by a fast and secure network.
FirstLight understands how important communication is in the health care industry. We have a proven track record of successfully helping health care providers improve their connectivity with our extensive fiber optic network. We provide highly secure, low-latency, redundant connections to ensure that your systems are always available. FirstLight provides HIPAA-compliant solutions for our health care customers.