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Technology infrastructure a lifeline in healthcare

Mari Edlin on October 9, 2013

Technology infrastructure got some respect during a panel discussion at Health 2.0, "The Changing Infrastructure Behind Health 2.0 Companies."

"An infrastructure is necessary to connect different devices and serves as a lifeline in healthcare," said Ryan Witt, global managing director of the healthcare and pharmaceutical practice at Juniper Networks, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company specializing in routing, switching and security.

"What is needed is a common network for everyone that enables patient care and is scalable, robust and redundant," he said.

Abdul Wahid, global solutions architect for Brocade, a networking solutions company based in San Jose, Calif., affirmed these thoughts. "Infrastructure is often the last thought, but it’s fundamental to healthcare," he said.

Vaibhav Bhandari, director, product management for Optum, an information and technology-enabled health services business with offices around the country, refers to his company’s output related to healthcare as "efficient, effective and delightful."

He pointed out that $30 billion of transactions are still done on paper, which comprises 80 percent of the total. "But it is clear that the biggest challenge is passing information from one source to another. Exchanging information between partners in healthcare has failed because the initiatives for sharing are just too complicated," he said.

Bhandari recommends a standard technology for sharing information that would reduce challenges of interoperability, cut costs and produce savings in time.

Optum, he said, has produced an open system to integrate with other systems by using a direct protocol instead of a closed system.

He said he sees a trend in building systems that are made to scale for a large number of different customers. "In healthcare, there are more partners with common interests so it makes sense to lay a solid foundation powered by software but using the rigor of hardware," he said.

"Software-defined networks enable flexibility in changing infrastructures," Bhandari added.

"If you are in an accountable care organization, participants need to share information and communicate through a common platform even if they are using different software," he said. "Communication based on a direct national standard can be adopted by many parties so they can share data."

Optum has put its application program interface to work by creating a secure messaging system between patients and their doctors and among physicians.

Its provider portal is a secure, cloud-based system that builds a network of referring providers; allows providers to invite physicians who share a common patient to establish a relationship; and establishes a groundwork for more effective physician-to-physician communication.

The application provides access to a national database of physicians, secure methods for sharing patient data and a centralized area to communicate and receive real-time patient data through any Internet browser.

Physicians can access electronic health records seamlessly from any location through a secure and centralized gateway that should save time, enhance practice productivity and simplify administrative workflows. Physicians can access patient charts, refill prescriptions, request lab results from any Internet-connected computer and automatically notify patients regarding their health status.

In addition, physicians can send electronic messages to patients to keep them apprised of lab results and appointments, and patients can request an appointment or prescription refill, check messages from physicians and pay their bills online.

"This is an exciting time in healthcare; we are close to having a robust health Internet that empowers patients," Bhandari said.

[Photo by - Paul Keller]

Category:  Ideation  Tags:  Entrepreneur, Startup, HealthIT, Infrastructure

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