Healthcare News & Insights

The digital hospital: Why it’s time for hospitals to run IT the lean way

high-tech-healthcareBecoming a digital hospital isn’t just about adopting new technology. It takes forward thinking, strategic digital transformation plans and a flexible IT infrastructure to make it all work. In this guest post, Brendan Ziolo, head of large enterprise strategy at an IP networking, ultra-broadband access and cloud technology company, gives hospital executives a glimpse at how to transform hospital IT systems to controls costs, increase access and improve patient care.


According to the 26th Annual HIMSS Leadership Survey, 81% of key respondents said that IT is considered a highly strategic tool at their organization and 68% said their use of IT has improved the quality of care and patient satisfaction. The study named healthcare CIO’s top five business objectives as:

  1. Improving patient satisfaction
  2. Improving quality of care
  3. Sustaining financial viability
  4. Improving care coordination
  5. Improving operational efficiency

Lean IT

As hospitals begin their digital transitions, meeting these business objectives requires a flexible and lean IT infrastructure to lay the foundation for transformation. Lean IT applies the principles of lean manufacturing to the development and management of IT. People, process and tools are all important pieces of lean IT, but there is another critical component — the infrastructure.

In hospitals, lean IT strives to create more value for patients while minimizing waste in the hospital’s infrastructure and organization. In order to achieve this, hospitals are beginning to move applications and infrastructure to cloud-based models for greater agility, to maximize resources, expand capacity and improve service without increasing budgets.

Cloud-based infrastructures can benefit hospitals by allowing them to more easily incorporate new technologies and digital capabilities. They can also significantly decrease their overall operational costs while simultaneously mitigating risk and exposure. Lastly, cloud computing can help break down legacy information silos and increase agility and responsiveness in a digital workflow for better patient care.

Virtualized network

The current state of migrating IT functions to the cloud varies from hospitals that have just begun to virtualize applications, computing and storage to those that have virtualized anything that can be. Virtualization reduces physical infrastructure, while creating a more flexible infrastructure that can be scaled as needed.

But applications, compute and storage are not the only considerations in creating the most suitable cloud environment. Virtualizing the network, which is essentially the circulatory system of the cloud that connects all aspects of a hospital’s digital workflow, is especially important.

A virtualized network drives a better cloud and leaner IT infrastructure. The network connects resources in the cloud and ensures the performance and availability of applications and information anywhere, any time and on any device for hospital staff and patients. The network is a fundamental contributor to a patient’s quality of experience in a digital hospital, without which the true potential of digital transformation would be compromised.

Software defined networking

The new network paradigm of software defined networking (SDN) provides the ability to automate network configuration in a policy-based way, using templates to eliminate errors and delays in the deployment and use of applications. SDN enables agile cloud environments that are responsive and highly automated. It enables a development operations (DevOps) approach with improved collaboration between teams to help reduce time to deliver new applications.

Some hospitals have not embraced cloud technologies because of concerns about security and compliance. Using an SDN approach, the IT organization can ensure that configurations and privileges are uniform and consistent across the entire infrastructure and that they match security and operational requirements.

SDN can significantly simplify the security of the network that connects the infrastructure, information and workflow. This simplicity reduces the chances of human error, thereby making the network and cloud more secure. By using SDN, templates can be created to host the security policies that hospitals want to enforce. Intelligent, declarative policies as well as virtual machines and applications can be instantiated or moved programmatically without having to manually define security definitions, thereby helping to enforce compliance by reducing errors and operational costs.

A hospital’s entire organization functions on technology and can benefit from new digital workflows that function on a framework, leveraging the cloud and new technologies. As hospitals build their digital infrastructure, they must ensure openness and interoperability to enable greater flexibility in supporting a variety of cloud solutions, including open source components.

Hospital CIO’s must be willing to adopt the highest performing IT models and infrastructure that will help them deliver more quickly and more flexibly on their large-scale digital programs. Shifting to a more lean IT model and infrastructure is the only way for hospitals to keep up with the rapid change in patient needs while controlling costs.

Brendan Ziolo is head of large enterprise strategy at Alcatel-Lucent, an IP networking and cloud technology company. He has almost 20 years of security and technology industry experience. 


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