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Akamai Blog | Digital Transformation Usain Bolt-Style: Health Care’s Sprint to Modernization

Instead of picking up their phone to schedule a doctor’s visit, ring an insurance provider, or call the pharmacy, a patient’s first step to getting care is now often the use of an app on their smartphone. There are new ways to order prescriptions, conduct appointments, seek care, and share health data (including automated processes among hospitals and insurance providers). 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals, health clinics/facilities, insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, and medical devices themselves were well on the way to offering new technologies to improve patient care and health outcomes. But the transformation was more of a light jog, slow and steady.

But post-pandemic? The ramifications of the upheaval of business-as-usual are felt by every corner of the healthcare industry. Patients now expect their experiences to mirror the best of the consumer space; pharmaceutical companies innovate to find new ways to bring vaccines to market with lightning speed; and medical devices have become a source of health data collection. We’re now talking about the 100-meter dash, Usain Bolt-style. 

As health entities evolve digitally, so do their risks. According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report, health care has weathered a 50% increase in cyberattacks since the onset of the pandemic, which made it the most expensive industry to weather an attack at US$ 7.13 million per incident. The most common threat was ransomware, followed by data theft and server access. 

This isn’t the only challenge health care providers, insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device manufacturers manage. While cybercriminals lurk in the background, there is a building pressure to move to more nimble infrastructure to meet the demands of a changing landscape. A once-accepted tepidly responsive portal or lightly-secured hospital network is now a key driver for operational inefficiencies and cost — not to mention the risks they present. 

By moving operations to the cloud, health entities can achieve their goals of maximizing the quality and reliability of digital services, providing more personalized user experiences, and improving cybersecurity. For example, the massive shift to remote work highlights the need for security like Zero Trust access control that can be deployed regardless of where users, devices, applications or data are located. As a result, secure access service edge (SASE) has become an increasingly popular framework to evaluate transformation efforts.  

The marathon of modernization for health care has already begun; but it’s not a race, it’s a journey. And we’re here to help you get there. This post will explain how to leverage the latest cloud delivery and edge security capabilities to optimize health outcomes, streamlined operations, reduce costs, and maintain regulatory compliance.  

Moving to the cloud

The cloud consists of servers that are accessed over the internet. These servers can be located anywhere in the world and can hold data that historically would be held on-premises. Cloud computing offloads the responsibility of server and software management from existing infrastructure onto a more nimble platform. The challenge is that the data is still kept in one location, making instantaneous delivery challenging.

Enter the edge. The edge refers to network locations that are distributed away from the core of the data center. Its purpose is to shift data, computing power, interactions, and decisions closer to users and endpoints to deliver better user experiences. As you move to a more resilient and secure edge, you can enjoy a frictionless experience that supports all your compliance requirements.  

What does that mean for me? 

The cloud, improved by the edge, can be used in myriad ways, but some examples include: 

  • Connecting with patients via portals or telemedicine

  • Providing access for remote staff and business partners 

  • Stopping users from going to phishing or ransomware sites 

  • Providing resilience from surges on registration sites and DDoS attacks  

  • Protecting your internet-facing capabilities 

  • Stopping account takeover attacks 

  • Connecting with medical devices and IoT infrastructure in a secure way 

Why would you want to move to the cloud? 

It depends on who you are. 

If you’re a health payer. . .

When you transfer infrastructure to the cloud and move experiences to APIs, you gain flexibility, cost management, protection from threats, and a streamlined and secure experience, not only for your members but also your employees. 

If you’re a healthcare provider. . .

Moving to the cloud allows for the flexibility, accessibility, and speed that’s required of modern care providers. By shifting your infrastructure to the cloud, you unburden internal systems, increase protection from unsecured medical devices (think: BYOD), and provide that extra layer of security from other external partners (billing partners, HVAC systems, email providers). By only allowing the right people on your network, you protect your patients’ valuable information and ensure continuity of care. 

If you’re a pharmaceutical company or medical device company. . .

You likely have come up against challenges that are similar to those of healthcare providers and insurance companies. Like them, you have sensitive data in intellectual property or user data you’d like to protect. In such a siloed industry, it’s integral to secure your system as well as your staff, maintaining the notion of “verify, then trust” that’s synonymous with the SASE architecture. 

  • To protect your workforce from ransomware, malware, and phishing attacks to protect intellectual property and proprietary data, learn how to move toward a Zero Trust environment

  • To protect your network from your medical devices and to protect the device itself, implement a web application firewall and work with us to build a secure future 

Next steps

We get it. Operationally, you want to reduce costs, avoid regulatory fines, and streamline your internal systems. Altruistically, you want to usher in a new era of health care — with the patient and their health care continuity at the heart of what you do. 

Akamai helps you optimize operations that manifest in better health outcomes. Connect with us here to get the conversation started.