Data and Connectivity in Aged Care
By Nathan McGregor, Senior Vice President Asia Pacific, Cradlepoint
Tuesday, 24 May, 2022
I recently attended an Aged Care IT Summit in Sydney where I moderated a panel discussion on the future of aged care and there were many interesting points that were raised. The role that technology plays within an aged care environment was at the heart of the discussion, highlighting that technology has moved from being a back-office function to a trusted partner.
Digital Technology Connecting People
The pandemic, specifically, has been responsible for the introduction of telehealth in the aged care environment. A large proportion of aged care organisations are now offering a telehealth service as part of their client’s care to protect clients from virus exposure risk and maximise the number of clients that can be assessed by a health practitioner.
Although we are in the third year of the pandemic, many aged care facilities are continuing to make investments in connectivity technologies to ensure people can stay connected while also providing Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled practices like automated thermal scanning at visitor check-in points.
While some people feel that aged care is at the start of the software and data journey, this sector is also leading the way in the use of some smart technologies. Many aged care facilities are considering investing in technologies that enable real-time data visibility of client health statistics and live reporting for immediate decision-making. Some are even looking at how predictive analysis based on trend data can be used to predict health outcomes based on patient health data over time.
Connectivity and Security
While many aged care organisations understand that quickly enabling connectivity has been crucial over the last few years, many are now working to ensure that the rapid growth of connected IoT devices in aged care aren’t compromising data security. This is no surprise, as recent research from IDG found that 44 percent of organisations globally named security as a challenge with their IoT deployments.*
IoT and Data
The ongoing technological frontier for the aged care sector is further incorporating IoT more widely across organisations to help improve and streamline client care, as well as support a workforce strained from staff shortages, growing workloads and more required reporting. IoT or connected devices can support a data-focused aged care environment. IoT in aged care can look like anything from connected medical devices such as blood pressure monitors that send client readings to a centralised health record database, to monitoring transfusions, and in more mature environments, applications like voice activated safety controls.
These applications are available today, however many aged care facilities don’t yet have the connectivity infrastructure needed to implement these tools.
5G for Data-Driven Care
Any application of IoT that collects and manages data for client care requires uninterrupted, secure and agile connectivity. While Wi-Fi is currently used widely across the sector, it has limitations as soon as a clinical or aged care worker leaves a site or works with in-home clients. The pervasiveness of care in a variety of environments and care settings means that Wi-Fi has limitations when it comes to seamless data driven healthcare. Wireless Wide Area Networking (WWAN) connectivity allows aged care providers to use technology to provide seamless care, anywhere. To future-proof their organisations, aged care providers should consider the fifth generation of wireless technology — 5G will be a game-changer for wireless networks designed to meet the needs of the future. 5G offers faster speed, reliability, and security compared to 4G LTE, which has been the WWAN standard for many years. 5G also has lower latency and higher bandwidth than older generations of wireless technology, making it a more efficient solution for transmitting and processing data.
5G wireless routers are the next generation of enterprise-grade wireless routers that will enable a whole new level of connectivity for aged care organisations.
As aged care organisations continue researching and assessing where 5G might fit into their networking plans, they’re also asking key questions about security. For instance, they’re concerned about their enlarged attack surface resulting from rapidly increasing IoT. They’re also considering the impact of the increasing prevalence of edge computing and virtualisation.
Enhancing network security with strategies at the edge
At the network edge, organisations can and should keep using the advanced network security technologies they’ve likely already been using with wired, Wi-Fi and 4G broadband. It’s also a good idea to explore and try some newer strategies and tools that have been gaining popularity amid the rise of 5G, including ZTNA and SASE to secure network endpoints.
Carriers can also provide network slicing to give businesses tailored services, as well as the precise level of security that’s ideal for each use case. In a nutshell, the network services available in each “slice” are tailored to its users’ unique application, traffic and security needs and charged accordingly.
ZTNA is a security concept that assumes anyone attempting to access a network or application is a malicious actor whose access must be restricted through ongoing verification of user identity, location, device, request timestamp, and previous patterns of use. This robust trust algorithm requires computational power that is made more efficient and effective through 5G, which ultimately improves Quality of Experience.
SASE solutions use real-time context based on enterprise compliance policies to identify end computing points including users, branch offices, cloud services, applications, and IoT devices. If the traffic is legitimate, the SASE edge control allows it to pass through. Adding this layer of security into an existing SD-WAN solution not only creates more secure communication, but also helps optimise the flow of data by reducing the bandwidth dedicated to unsecured traffic.
The aged care sector is moving towards more data-driven care and 5G connectivity will enable better, more efficient care that so many providers are already exploring.
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