If the last eighteen months has proved anything, it’s that healthcare never stays still. And that’s just as true of the technology that healthcare workers use as it is of the diseases and conditions they are called on to treat. The technologies now in use in the average hospital have been evolving rapidly for much of the last century, and the last few years haven’t been an exception.
Nowhere is that more true than when it comes to data storage. A few years ago, healthcare providers were primarily interested in finding (or, in some cases, developing) storage systems that allowed them to be HIPAA compliant. Today, their concerns are different — to use a new generation of technologies to automate healthcare IT, streamline data storage, and allow clinicians to get back to what they do best, treating patients.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the key trends transforming healthcare data storage in 2021, and what they can tell us about the future of the healthcare IT sector.
The pandemic has certainly had some unexpected effects on healthcare providers, and among them has been an increased appreciation of just how at-risk they are when it comes to cyberattacks. In fact, for many healthcare companies the past year has been one where they’ve had to deal with two distinct pandemics — not just Covid-19, but also a dramatic increase in the number of cyberthreats as well.
For many, this has underscored the need to invest in secure data storage solutions. As cyberattacks get more sophisticated, and go beyond the standard phishing attacks that we’ve seen up until now, it’s clear that even small healthcare providers need cutting-edge data storage in order to stay safe.
Also read: Top Cloud Data Security Software
As the number of cyberattacks continued to rise throughout the last year, this led to a re-configuring of the way in which healthcare providers saw their IT teams. During this crisis, the anecdotal evidence suggests that many organizations turned to their CIOs, not just to protect them against new types of threats, but also to provide real leadership.
This makes sense, of course. The pandemic has forced many organizations to develop innovative health data platforms as a response to the pandemic, and very few executives understand risk management and mitigation like CIOs. And their role continues to become more central in many healthcare organizations, we are likely to see healthcare storage systems become more secure as well.
The last year hasn’t just been about risk mitigation, though. It’s also been one in which several key trends that were visible before the pandemic have started to make real demands on the infrastructure that is in place at healthcare providers. One of these is telehealth, the deployment of which has greatly accelerated over the past year.
It’s been apparent for some time that telehealth was on the rise, and that the systems used to deliver it would put strains on the extant healthcare IT systems in place. However, few anticipated that telehealth would become such an important part of the response to the pandemic, or that it would require innovative storage solutions for healthcare to be developed.
Also read: Developments in Cloud Storage for IoT Data
Virtual assistants are another area in which much exciting research has been done over the past few years, and are another key technology which is driving the development of healthcare storage solutions.
While voice-driven healthcare assistants have been shown to be highly effective in clinical settings, from a storage perspective, they present some real challenges. In order to recognize and react to patients’ voices, these systems must collect huge amounts of data from them, and they must be able to access this data quickly. And yet, at the same time, all of this data must be stored securely.
The solution to this apparent paradox has been around for a while, but has only just started to be deployed in healthcare settings — edge computing and edge storage.
Indeed, edge storage is likely to be central to many of the healthcare systems of the future, because many of these next-generation systems require huge amounts of data to be collected, stored, and processed in real time.
This presents challenges for the healthcare sector, because of the requirement that all patient data be stored securely. In the healthcare sector, even email needs to be stored in a way that is compliant with multiple compliance frameworks. This becomes a problem when organizations are looking to store petabytes of data.
Edge storage can help to meet this issue. By storing more data closer to where they are being used and processed, edge systems promise greatly enhanced performance for AI and ML systems, while not compromising security.
The final trend driving innovation in healthcare storage solutions is one that is not quite here, but could be sooner than we think — truly diagnostic AI and ML systems. Research has shown that AI systems can help clinicians to diagnose medical conditions. However, the infrastructure required to run systems like this is not yet in place in many healthcare providers. As the technological revolution catalyzed by the pandemic continues to develop, this might change rapidly.
Ultimately, storage solutions in the healthcare sector are not an end in themselves, but they do power the tools that clinicians rely on every day to make life-or-death decisions. And just as healthcare workers are required to meet new challenges each day, so are healthcare IT engineers, who are already looking at how to meet the remote storage challenges of tomorrow.
Read next: Cloud Storage SLAs are More Important Than Ever
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