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Understanding healthcare IT

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The healthcare industry is experiencing unprecedented change. Healthcare professionals, from payers to providers to life sciences organizations, are navigating a major shift from treating illness to a focus on wellness and quality. Despite efforts to shift toward a value-based model, the industry is still facing many challenges. One of the primary challenges is a fragmented IT environment that contributes to operational inefficiency, redundancy, manual procedures, and isolated data sets that remain unchanged.

In addition to these structural changes, technology is also evolving rapidly. Data is becoming the key currency in healthcare powered by a massive increase in engagement with digital technologies—portable imaging, diagnostics tools, wearable devices, etc. This has created an explosion in the amount of data that must be collected and synchronized in order to drive initiatives that use technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to make the data actionable and event driven. These integration requirements cannot be met using legacy software and outdated architectures. Rather, healthcare organizations will need to implement and require a modern IT architecture to collect, store, and use data in an event-driven fashion.

Healthcare organizations must embrace digital technologies, without vendor lock-in, in order to enable future innovation.  As such innovations will be data driven, it is critical to have complete control of data for analytics, decision making, and for more relevant patient engagement. This will require healthcare organizations to treat data as a major asset.

With digital services, healthcare IT has the opportunity to drive innovation by using data in real time for event-driven activity to help proactively detect and treat disease, as well as improve clinical decision making and patient outcomes. In addition, as complexity increases, automation will be key.  Healthcare organizations must use human resources where needed, but automate the rest for accuracy, dependability and timeliness.

As healthcare IT organizations seek to overcome challenges in security and regulatory compliance, data interoperability, and clinical reasoning, a unified platform will be essential. Healthcare providers, payers, and life sciences organizations that accelerate adoption of open source and cloud to modernize, automate, and optimize their IT infrastructures can deliver innovation faster and at scale.

For healthcare IT organizations, managing security and compliance  is necessary and never-ending. The cost of a data breach is higher than in any other industry. Security vulnerabilities, security breaches, and cyber-attacks from state and non-state actors are increasing on a daily basis. Government protections like the HIPAA privacy rule in the US must also be considered. In addition, as workloads migrate to hybrid cloud configurations and DevOps development, the size of the attack surface that needs to be protected and the complexity of protecting it expands significantly. 

Maintaining security and regulatory compliance has become a complex process that consumes significant IT resources and budget.  Automated security and protection for the entire application and container life cycle across hybrid and multicloud environments is needed. To maintain security and regulatory compliance healthcare IT security systems must:

  • Maintain continuous surveillance and security checks to find vulnerabilities across the entire operating environment and immediately remediate any issues.
  • Perform scans, audits, and provide reports to help track down and understand exactly where, when, and how vulnerabilities were introduced—including any new users or settings changes that might have appeared at the same time.
  • Perform an ongoing stream of cyber security upgrades and updates.
  • Protect electronic-protected health information (ePHI) to meet government requirements and reduce the risk of violations.
  • Perform regular risk analysis to make sure safeguards like antivirus software and role-based authentication policies are robust and up to date.

Automating security can reduce the downtime and manual effort required for repetitive security tasks, making the never-ending task of providing security to the environment and maintaining regulatory compliance easier and less expensive.

The transition to focusing on wellness and quality is driving a need for healthcare organizations to get more value and insight from their data beyond the traditional transactional usage. This requires connectivity and data compatibility among disparate information systems, devices, and applications. It also requires coordination across multiple organizations to access, exchange, and cooperatively use data to optimize patient and population outcomes. 

To address these data management requirements, HCOs need an architecture that can process data at scale from various sources and route information to a wide variety of new devices and destinations. This modern architecture must also reconcile disparate operational data across the enterprise into a new, agile information resource. 

Cloud-native applications built on open source platforms can eliminate data silos and disparate systems. Open source-based cloud-native architectures can be designed to process large volumes of data from many sources and intelligently route information to a variety of destinations and devices. Open source platforms are also vendor agnostic, giving healthcare IT organizations freedom of choice among vendors and a more open path to the future.

To improve the quality of patient care, HCOs need access to the right data at the right time and in the right context. The ability to collect, analyze, and interpret the massive amount of data generated by sources like mobile and smart monitoring devices has the potential to provide remarkable insights into treating individual patients and managing health outcomes for various patient populations.

As the number of data sources and the amount of data that must be stored and secured increases, however, it becomes more difficult to derive clinical intelligence from the data. A clinical reasoning (or clinical decision support) solution can ingest data from a variety of sources, rapidly process it, and present relevant information and recommendations to clinicians at the point of care or during treatment planning. When incorporating AI/ML, the processes get smarter over time. 

The data and recommendations can provide clinicians with important insights at the point of care, such as diagnostics and health alerts. It offers payers and health plans insights that can optimize the Revenue Cycle by detecting claims fraud or predicting patterns that affect outcomes in patient populations, and sending alerts for medication adherence.  It can also be leveraged for patient engagement initiatives by tailoring the patient’s experience to focus on what they are likely to want.

To deliver better patient outcomes, HCOs need to digitally transform their value chains and simplify IT operations. Central to that transformation is cloud―often multicloud―and a trusted application platform. Cloud-native applications running on hybrid cloud infrastructure can provide HCOs with the data interoperability, scalability, and flexibility they need to transform into more agile organizations. Newer technologies like containers, microservices, Kubernetes, and IT automation, along with methodologies like Agile and DevOps, can provide the speed, agility, and scalability to make the right data and insights quickly and efficiently available where it’s needed.

Open source offers faster innovation and problem resolution because entire communities are focused on solving the challenges of the future. Choosing open source means that HCOs can break free from their legacy infrastructure and avoid lock-in to a specific vendor’s technologies and roadmap. New technologies can be incorporated and deployed as they emerge to optimize data collection, integration, real-time access, and decision support capabilities.

Red Hat provides feature-rich distributions of open source projects with value-added hardening and integration to improve usability and automate administrative functions and data governance for security and compliance. HCOs can migrate to cloud-native architectures with confidence that patient data remains protected, security risks can be reduced, and the cost of IT administration can be stabilized.

Red Hat’s open source solutions offer the flexibility to build a platform that supports a HCO’s IT strategies—from improving engagement and experience, to drug efficacy, to claims management. Business rules, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) can be used to combine data and insights to make better decisions and execute best actions to improve outcomes.

To help meet the requirements for data security, Red Hat developed the Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP) and teamed with OpenSCAP, the leader in open source security protocols, to provide the tools to help prevent, detect, and mitigate security threats. By combining OpenSCAP and Red Hat Ansible Automation, HCOs can take advantage of a security hardening solution for the operating environment that provides fast, verifiable, repeatable security processes for regulatory compliance. 

To address data management requirements, Red Hat’s Intelligent Data-as-a-Service (IDaaS) for healthcare solution provides inbound connectors, message consumption, a business rules engine, an action engine, federated access to data sources, caching, and outbound connectors. Red Hat’s Clinical Reasoning solution is the confluence of AI/ML and automation in a healthcare context. It combines data from various sources, intelligently filters the data, and presents the data at the right time in an event-driven fashion; scaling across the cloud(s), and at the edge. The addition of feedback loops within workflows adds an additional layer of real-time optimization to enhance outcomes, increase quality of care, and reduce cost.

Red Hat’s hybrid cloud solutions provide enterprise-grade cloud platforms that support the needs of HCOs. Read Hat hybrid cloud solutions are all cloud agnostic. OpenStack has become an open source cloud de facto standard, and Red Hat OpenStack Platform is the leading commercial distribution. Kubernetes is the dominant container infrastructure orchestration technology, and Red Hat OpenShift is the leading commercial Kubernetes solution. Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform is the de facto standard in IT automation.

Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat OpenStack Platform provide the operational consistency and interoperability needed to advance healthcare IT innovation. Private cloud capacity can be deployed  on-premise for protected health information (PHI) workloads and run non-protected workloads across a hybrid cloud landscape where and when it makes the most sense. HCOs also benefit from Red Hat’s industry expertise and knowledge gained  from serving HCOs and other organizations and enterprises around the globe.

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