The Evolution of Healthcare for the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things holds great promise to improve our health and wellbeing. Internet-connected infusion pumps, imaging machines, blood-glucose sensors (and myriad more devices) can automatically share valuable data to a person’s electronic health record. That said, with new devices comes the need for speed and manageability, which requires careful network planning.

Security needs to be front and center

Hackers continue to dominate the headlines, as they expose vulnerabilities across verticals. Healthcare providers hold some of the world’s most sensitive information—medical records—making them a particularly high-value target.

Reporters at Computerworld recently demonstrated the risk of “medjacking,” where hackers are able to exploit Internet-connected medical devices, such as infusion pumps, to administer deadly levels of an otherwise helpful drug into an unsuspecting patient, without triggering an alarm to medical professionals.

The network represents one of the largest avenues of attack, and every possible effort should be made to secure it.

On some legacy networks, people can connect devices without prior authorization. In the most extreme cases, healthcare administrators admit they have no idea exactly how many devices are accessing their network at any given time.

Attacks come in many forms—from the so-called ‘Sneakernet’ via USB keys to infected devices brought from home by oblivious patients or employees.

Another major challenge is that Internet-connected devices and end-user applications are evolving faster than the legacy network. The traditional approach of securing the Internet gate with a firewall isn’t enough. Once a device is connected to the network with an IP address, all other devices on the same network segment can be easily exposed (and possibly hacked), as many administrators of hacked environments have learned the hard way.

Software-defined networking represents a crucial layer in a multi-layered security plan. Traffic dynamically flows across the network, picking the shortest path to its destination. The network can be easily segmented into areas that remain invisible to devices on the edge. One physical network can create numerous virtual networks on the fly. Network connections open as approved devices connect, and dynamically close as those devices are disconnected. Getting a complete picture of every device on the network at that moment is a single click away.

Reducing the size of the network footprint and obscuring the network core can provide important, added security benefits.

Segmenting and filtering are crucial

By segmenting the network at the routing table level, data can be filtered and contained to flow from approved devices to pre-defined applications. Without segmentation, all devices in a single, flat routing table, can communicate with all other connected devices and users.

In a healthcare setting, does the network that transports data from the MRI machine to the electronic health record system need to share the same path options as the payment card system? No. By segmenting the network and isolating various systems, you create additional protections against a single intrusion infecting multiple systems.

To quote the lead hacker at the NSA, who recently gave a presentation on how companies can protect themselves from the NSA: “Segment networks and important data to make it harder for hackers to reach your jewels.”

All this together helps secure the network from an arbitrary number of edge devices creating an exponentially insecure network– leading to a more secure edge. This becomes more important in a software-defined perimeter approach to securing the edge, with a central policy and filtering enforcement model, as well as segmenting it from other network services.

Automation ties it all together

Implementations where security requires too much effort or results in added complexity often fail, because the human element gets in the way of the need for a quick deployment. How many times have shortcuts and the human element led to failures in systems? Automating connectivity of Internet-connected devices means security is simpler and far easier to implement.

It’s not all about automating the connection to the edge; healthcare providers need to make sure their system puts devices and users into their proper virtual network segment and have the proper profile rules enforced. That way, administrators can prevent devices from becoming points in a myriad of concerns to the future of the organization.

I hope to see you at HIMSS 2016, either at booth #11325, or at the session “Internet of Things for Healthcare” (March 1 from 1-2 p.m.), where I will be presenting with Eric Miller of Ascension.

Related Articles:

Avaya Healthcare Solutions: Three Insights About Patient-Centered Care

Over three years ago I had a terrible skiing accident. I broke my hip at the femoral head and the force of the fall caused extensive tissue damage. I went to a rural hospital in Quebec, and was transferred to The Ottawa Hospital where emergency surgery was performed. Chronic pain and rehab followed. A year later a second surgery was performed as my hardware started to detach. Finally, it was confirmed that the bone was dying. I had a total hip replacement a year ago. I will never be the same, but I skied last season, I just signed up for my first triathlon, I am at peace. Throughout this journey, I have found purpose in my work as never before. I truly understand the need for patient-centered care and this crystalized in my discussions with health systems about Avaya healthcare solutions:

    • Patient access to services is critical. Patients must have access to condition-appropriate resources. In my case, there was significant time lapse between transfers, which impacted my ability to see resources that affected outcome (an example: I waited four hours for an ambulance transfer to Ottawa, for a surgery where success decreased with time). We must streamline communications among referring physicians—accepting institutions, transportation, and admissions. (It took two months to schedule hardware removal for a 10-minute procedure that caused inflammation to the point of immobility.) To increase access, we must reduce wait times by reducing no-shows, not-ready shows, and re-admissions. To ensure optimal access to services, we must enable continual communication (often via automation) with patients and the wider care team.
    • A care team must be integrated and centered on patient wellness. This is a culture change as much as a technology discussion. Too often, it is not easy for a physician to have a discussion with a care team—common pagers and voicemail are insufficient. In my experience, physicians had few tools that let them review my record—they could not click a button and see my holistic care team and collaborate with them. I suspect my surgeon has never spoken to my physiotherapist, my scar treatment therapist, my back specialist, my PCP….
    • We must get specific on outcomes and use cases if we are to leverage new technology. My husband walked into my room one night at the hospital and apparently (morphine-induced days) I was discussing with the nurse Avaya’s mobility solutions. I vaguely remember, and have since qualified orthopedic nursing requests:
      • Having easy access to ancillary services like physiotherapists, pharmacists, radiology, dietary
      • Having a streamlined discharge processes
      • Having alerting and nurse calls that support a “silent hospital”

If technologists are to position solutions they must work with providers and patients to be specific on how solutions impact workflow. We must show the care team the art of the possible and take real business feedback.

I admire my care team and I am appreciative for the ongoing care I receive and the IT and support organizations that make care better every day. Improvements can be made in patient-centered care, but every provider I’ve interacted with cared about my outcome. This caring is what will drive patient-centered care forward. I am grateful for my experience. I am grateful for my career.

5 Steps for Mapping Your Customer Journey Transformation

A customer journey map puts the user front and center in the organization’s thinking. It shows changes in customer behavior and demonstrates the need for the entire organization to adapt. There is no organization-wide or even industry-wide standardization of customer journey transformation mapping. But incorporate these five key steps into your plan to create a successful and effective customer journey map.

  1. Baseline Your Customer Journey
    Document your current customer journey. Once this is established, a roadmap can be kept firmly in mind, the initial architecture can be strengthened, and part of the day-to-day operations can be defined. Not only will a roadmap enable you to focus on customer needs and solving their problems, but it can be used to identify opportunities for future innovation and experiences.
  2. Define the Principles
    In reviewing the customer journey, keep focus on customer needs and solving their problems. What can be simplified? Where can value be added? How can self-service be enhanced? Establish a new way of working, embed it in the organization, and guide frontline employees in making the customer experience the best it can possibly be, at every point in the journey.
  3. Integrate Your Data
    Integrating multiple sources of data is key to creating a single unified customer view. The data from your analytics can also do more than predict customer behavior. They can shed light on your infrastructure’s current condition. A lack of usable data can be a sign of issues within your infrastructure, whereas good quality, current and integrated data centralizes user insights and completely connects the customer journey.
  4. Identify the Barriers
    What is stopping you from delivering the desired experience? What is within your direct control? Shine a spotlight on specific areas that can be immediately assigned, owned, and acted on. Include areas that require broad cross-organizational support to reinforce the infrastructure and ensure the continuing progress of the transformation plan.
  5. Measure Your Progress
    When changes are made to your customer journey, it’s important to consistently document the impact of the changes and share the customer reaction. Be sure to measure periodically, specifically after any significant alterations. Reflect new technologies, trends, and behaviors. This will help you make fast, informed, and agile decisions to refine processes and sustain momentum throughout the transformation.

Incorporating these five steps into your transformation plan will ensure that you produce an output based on user research, that you have collected the best possible quality data available, and that you have a documented and measured plan. At the end of your mapping initiative, you will have a team of cross-organizational allies that are engaged and ready to act on the insights revealed during the process.

Delivering a Memorable Customer Experience—Are You Ready to Serve?

With an increasing number of brands entering the market across virtually all sectors (financial services, retail, healthcare, communications, etc.) organizations are fighting harder than ever to meet their customers’ demands. But as plenty of companies are discovering, it’s one thing to create a good product or service, and a completely different thing to deliver a memorable customer experience (CX).

CX is ranked a key competitive differentiator by 82% of companies, however only 11% self-rate their CX as nine out of 10 or better. These figures highlight just how tough it can be to adapt to digitally-savvy consumers, particularly with the breadth and complexity of day-to-day customer interactions.

Delivering a superior, memorable customer experience is a challenging balancing act, requiring organisations to execute their product vision while prioritizing customers’ demands. It’s also increasingly difficult now that consumers have so many options to choose from, and far more means of expressing dissatisfaction should an experience take a downturn.

But while business leaders—including C-level executives—commonly promote their customer centricity, the reality is many haven’t quite unravelled what that really means for their organisations. And unfortunately, there are still many instances where existing (archaic) policies inhibit the ability to serve the customer.

Although there’s an understanding that customer experience must incorporate traditional telephony, apps, email, web chat and social media, it takes much more than simply providing different platforms for consumers to use. Omnichannel isn’t enough.

In order to optimise customer experience, companies must ask:

  • How well do our various channels communicate?
  • How can we reduce the number of times clients need to pass a security check without jeopardising their privacy and data?
  • Can we start a conversation over web chat, and then move it to phone call or video?
  • How can we better understand every one of our unique customers?
  • How can all of these elements be wrapped together to ensure the entire organisation is ready to serve?

All of these questions have something in common: they require a modern platform that is flexible enough to meet every customer’s unique needs, as well as the ability to collect and analyse data to inform intelligent decisions that will boost the value the brand can deliver. To effectively serve customers, companies need to consolidate touch points to deliver a consistent, seamless experience through various channels—but they must also ensure that every team member—in any role—is a customer experience expert who has the right tools and data when they get a query.

At Avaya, we have fundamentally transformed our services delivery model. We enable our clients to create experiences that align to the needs of their businesses while catering for the expectations of their customers. By developing a flexible software core that can be customised to almost every customer experience scenario, we are helping organisations become ready to serve, which leads to maximised customer satisfaction and subsequent retention.

Customer experience is of such prominence that analyst firm IDC argued the evolving contact centre market is buoyed by business leaders’ focus on improving CX. This demonstrates the opportunity at hand, however organisations must do more than simply provide a selection of channels for consumers to use. Long wait times are perceived as unacceptable—the limited flow of data within an omnichannel environment should be too. Companies need to let their customers determine value. And that is the approach Avaya has adopted in order to fulfil our role as the communications company for digital transformation.