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How IT Architecture Has Changed in the COVID Era
Posted on Apr 19, 2021 9:33 pm

The pandemic has shifted IT management priorities and affected the way hospitals function. Read more about how COVID has changed IT architecture.

When 242 healthcare providers were surveyed by Reaction Data last year, about 70% of them said the IT industry was moving towards the Cloud. Although these providers were not aware of the global pandemic that would occur this year, their predictions were correct. 

However, due to the Coronavirus, more healthcare providers have needed to turn to information technology to treat patients and to keep everyone safe. With a heavy reliance on IT architecture, changes have been made to it to keep healthcare systems up and running. To better understand what those changes entailed, continue reading. 

Information Technology in the Hospital 

Back in March, hospitals were running out of room for patients. Thus, workers turned to artificial intelligence to help them manage their workload. Although A.I. will never become a substitute for human healthcare workers, hospitals have learned how to use this tool to their advantage. 

A.I. robots have played a part during this pandemic by helping take patients’ vitals and getting them their medication. This method reduces human contact and, therefore, works to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Artificial intelligence was already used to conduct x-rays and to diagnose patients. During this pandemic, A.I. has used big data to determine whether patients are high or low risk.

They also use the data to decide if the patient needs to be placed in a care unit. This work prevents hospitals from overflowing again and gives patients the correct care they need. 

Big data plays a pivotal role in hospitals today. Not only can it help determine a patient’s risk, but it accesses the number of cases where that patient lives. Tracking the places where cases are highest will help leaders take steps toward preventing the number from increasing further. 

This much information requires architects to make changes in the Cloud, including the increase of cybersecurity. During this intense time, hospitals should not have to deal with hackers or viruses in their system. Keeping patient data safe will make healthcare workers’ jobs easier. 

Protecting this data is crucial because healthcare workers will use it to foresee future pandemics. The more doctors know about future outbreaks, the more detailed their plans will be. There’s a higher chance they can save more lives.  

Harnessing IoT

IoT technology allows for many physical devices to access one network. These physical devices include mobile devices and contactless devices. There are sensors on all these devices that send the data to the Cloud.

These sensors can track where people have been, which allows them to find the source of an outbreak. The system uses this information to locate the people with who they could’ve come in contact.  

It then alerts them about it. Ultimately, this could lead to more people getting tested and quarantining sooner than they would if they were waiting for symptoms to occur. 

IoT will show if a person who needs to be quarantining is or not. Furthermore, IoT has made it easier for healthcare providers to convert to telemedicine. It is an alternative approach to healthcare that is necessary during this pandemic. 

IT Architecture at Home

As part of the initiative to prevent the spread of coronavirus, doctor’s offices are using telemedicine to treat patients. Many patients canceled their in-person appointments at the beginning of the pandemic. As a result, the number of telemedicine appointments has increased. 

Doctors are reporting that telemedicine is working well. It is beneficial for those who are at high risk for catching the virus (i.e. the elderly and people with preexisting conditions)

It also helps those who do not live close to a hospital. Additionally, telemedicine decreased healthcare costs, making it more accessible. 

Furthermore, people enjoy not having to spend time in the waiting room before seeing their doctors. Healthcare workers also state that video conferences allow them to get a sense of their patient’s home environment, which informs them of potential health risks. 

One of the downfalls of using telemedicine is that not every healthcare worker is trained to use it. The medical field has been slow to get on cloud technology, so telemedicine has likely been a learning curve for some doctors and nurses. 

While there seems to be a positive response to telemedicine overall, IT architecture needs a strong bandwidth for these appointments to run smoothly. Switching to software-defined networking will alleviate the traffic on a healthcare provider’s network. 

Software-Defined Networking

Different bandwidth strengths are required for asynchronous and synchronous appointments. Asynchronous means patients will email their doctor or converse with a chatbot to discuss their symptoms. Synchronous appointments happen in real-time, which means both parties need to have high-quality video and audio to have a successful meeting. 

If there are many patients with appointments at the same time, network congestion will decrease the quality of service. The purpose of software-defined networking is to separate the control plane from the data plane to diverge some of the traffic. 

SDN has a control layer that will prioritize certain resources depending on what type of traffic is occurring in the system. The control layer labels the traffic so that it can allocate resources properly. 

This alternate IT architecture also makes it easier for healthcare providers to scale their network. Scalability will save healthcare providers money. They can increase and decrease the number of resources they need depending on their demand. 

The network layer can store data correctly based on the information the SDN controller provides. It never has to ask the SDN controller twice about what to do with a specific type of data, which makes the system more efficient. 

Appointments are not the only aspect of healthcare that SDNs can handle. Healthcare workers can create schedules in the Cloud, and patients can access and make payments, as well as access their medical information.

Because of all their benefits, SDNs seem to be the future of healthcare. But they aren’t the only system that is a part of the changes in tech due to COVID-19. 

Fog Computing and IT Management

There is a layer that healthcare providers can add between the Cloud and the edge devices that have access to the information stored there. This type of architecture is called fog computing, and it uses fog nodes to sort through the data and decide whether it needs to go to the Cloud or the end-users on the edge. 

Doctors and patients access Cloud information from the edge, and they use the Cloud so that you can access information from previous appointments. It is also helpful for patients who see multiple doctors within the same network, so health information is accessible no matter what type of appointment you have. 

Researchers have found that using a hybrid fog and cloud (HFC) environment would be useful when trying to deploy COVID-19 disease monitoring systems. These systems are similar to the IoT, as they keep track of places where cases are high and where each patient has been.  

Contact Tracing With HFC Architecture

The idea is to attach bracelets to the HFC architecture, seeing that this would be more accurate than tracking people through mobile devices. The bracelets would have sensors that use GPS, a microphone, a pulse oximeter, and a thermometer. 

The bracelet keeps track of a person’s health, and if symptoms start to occur and stay persistent, it will send that data to the fog layer. The fog layer triggers an alert to the person that tells them they have COVID-19 symptoms. 

The fog layer will sort and process the data, filtering it so that only the necessary information goes to the Cloud. This sorting prevents Cloud storage from filling up quickly, which will save healthcare providers money. You would need to make the fog layer secure enough so that only users with credentials can access the historical data. 

When this data is filtered, the fog layer will then decide to alert emergency medical and service, who can then contact the patient via the bracelet. It takes less time and requires less bandwidth to use the fog layer than it does to send this information all the way to the Cloud only to send it back out to the edge users. 

During this time, the Cloud is processing big data. It is going to require containers and virtual machines to store the data. Additionally, healthcare providers will need extra security to prevent losing this information

The cloud also makes it easy for patients to find a rapid testing center that will send a test to their house. Therefore, the patient never has to break their quarantine. This system reduces the number of coronavirus patients in the hospital and the number of patients who need telemedicine.  

Need IT Management for Your Network?

IT Architecture limits have been pushed this year, to say the least. However, the Cloud has been able to adapt to meet healthcare providers’ needs. If you are interested in upgrading or changing your Cloud architecture to meet the needs of your patients, contact the team at Net Depot. They’ve got all the resources you need to ensure that your system runs efficiently during these unprecedented times. 

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