With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout under way, communities are counting on government agencies and healthcare organizations to adapt quickly to meet their needs. Cisco Meraki is here to help—ready to deploy unique solutions to support public and private organizations as they move quickly to scale vaccination efforts.
Additionally, the U.S. federal government passed the latest “Coronavirus Stimulus 2.0” bill. This funding, which is an attachment to the larger 5,000+ page Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, will provide close to $900 billion to state and local governments, educational institutions, and healthcare providers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We spoke with Troy Yoder, Cisco Global Public Healthcare Leader, and Janell Tennyson, Cisco U.S. Public Funding Advisor, on the current state of this initiative.
What is the current state of Cisco Meraki’s involvement in the COVID-19 vaccine effort?
The scale of this response is truly impressive across the entire care continuum for healthcare providers. In fact, we are seeing the effort expand to retail, healthcare, and government organizations, with a focus on connectivity, security, and visibility. Setting up a temporary vaccine site in exterior spaces like parking lots or convention centers means implementation needs to be streamlined.
For many drive-through, temporary, and pop-up vaccination sites, data connectivity is critical. Vaccine databases, electronic health records, and other critical information needs to be accessed by staff in real time—securely and reliably. Additionally, surveillance is vital in these spaces to monitor access and ensure proper vaccine storage and Meraki’s technology is key to meeting those demands seamlessly.
How is Cisco Meraki leading on the mobilization of partnerships between public and private organizations?
As vaccine distribution scales out, Cisco Meraki is working closely with our partners and customers. In the past weeks we’ve seen rapid efforts from both private and public organizations, from supporting pharmacy chains with physical security to the rollout of testing sites in the parking lots of hospitals, schools, and local communities. It’s been extraordinary to be a part of these efforts. Given that there’s no playbook for this, we continue to learn as much as we can in order to deliver solutions that scale visibility, security, and connectivity to support vaccine administration.
What role does technology play in the vaccine rollout, both in terms of execution and maintaining safety?
Cisco helps power an inclusive recovery by driving efficient vaccine administration through technology and expertise. Since the vaccine rollout began, Meraki has been working with partners and customers to operationalize mobile and pop-up vaccination sites through solutions that monitor loss prevention, support physical distancing guidelines, and provide a cloud-based network for virtual patient engagement.
In terms of the vaccine rollout funding provisions in the recent new stimulus bill (Cares Act 2.0):
What are the specific industries that can apply for this federal funding?
$8.75B was granted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with a minimum of $4.5B extended to states. The two funds (vaccine & contract tracing) were sent as supplementals to existing state awardees (i.e. in addition to regular, nonstimulus funding) under the CDC’s Immunizations and Vaccines for Children cooperative agreement (vaccine distribution $) and the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases (ELC) cooperative agreement (contact tracing $).States may choose to “pass along” some of this funding to the local level or keep it for state activities.Whichever organization has control of public health at the state level is likely the same group controlling this new money. Some states have one umbrella Department of Health while others may have separate departments.
What can be purchased with this funding?
These funds can be used for activities to plan, prepare for, promote, distribute, administer, and track COVID-19 vaccines.
To learn more about Meraki’s solutions that support vaccine administration and how we enable healthcare providers and government agencies to support their communities, visit our website or contact us today.
Financial institution executives believe that cybersecurity threats will present the greatest challenge to their industry in 2021, according to a recent survey conducted by core technology provider CSI. And consider this story from securitymagazine.com, where hackers attacked a bank’s security system and took over their cameras. Even after the bank replaced the cameras, the hackers were so embedded that the bank had to replace its entire security system. The lesson? Don’t underestimate the risk of a cyberattack.
Many financial institutions believe that their current security program is good enough—but is it? The threats we face are dynamic, emerging, and global, and they often keep one foot on each side of the physical and digital divide. These blended threats require connecting data, building new capabilities, and gaining new insights, thereby eroding the distance between the roles and responsibilities of physical and cybersecurity teams.
The need for physical security isn’t going away, so it’s imperative that physical security teams and cybersecurity teams work together to ensure a holistic approach to financial institution security. So, how can your financial institution benefit from a collaborative working relationship between the physical security team and the cybersecurity team?
Adopt emerging technologies with confidence
As new IoT devices enter the market they can open up a lot of security vulnerabilities. Imagine the scenario where an attacker successfully gains entry to a server room or data center and installs malware or devices to capture confidential, sensitive data—or even brings down the network entirely. How would a financial institution with a conjoined physical and cybersecurity strategy mitigate this situation?
In this instance, cybersecurity teams faced with intruders could quickly connect the cyber footprint to a physical location. By mapping cyber and physical presence against one another, it’s possible to understand where threats originate. If an intrusive device is planted within an environment, cybersecurity teams can track its presence to its origin and identify those responsible for bringing it in via video surveillance footage. This provides a better view of the threat and more tools to protect valuable assets.
Additionally, consider developing the proper risk mindset and engage across the organization to innovate and behave collaboratively, thereby cultivating aninstitutionalized approach to governance, controls, and data protections. Cross-organizational cooperation can synergistically carve a path to adopting new IoT technology.
Deepen your customers’ trust
Online banking and mobile banking have skyrocketed with the pandemic. Extending a digital trust experience into branch locations and physical touch points with customers and members is imperative. 90% of consumers said they feel safer when they can see video surveillance cameras in their bank or credit union and would choose a financial institution with surveillance over one without, all other things being equal. In the age of COVID-19, consumers will be expecting physical distancing measures, cleaning protocols, and mask compliance. Addressing these challenges does not have to mean manual monitoring and processes. New physical security technologies with integrated artificial intelligence can look for multiple threats using multiple sensors in an integrated and seamless response.
Create synergies–branch transformation
As branches are redesigned to be more open with self-service kiosks and digital signage, tellers will not be behind a desk but will instead be roaming the branch to assist customers with more complex transactions, like home purchases, retirement, or the intricacies of starting a business. This leaves the opportunity for an integrated networked security solution in this physical domain that can provide critical customer experience data around people-counting and queue length/occupancy for branch performance metrics, but also cover perimeter security and asset protection concerns for both on-site and remote teams. Harnessing the insights from video data for evolving customer experiences becomes a competitive advantage to win.
Being successful today elicits a holistic approach to security to ensure there is consistent protection of consumer data, employees, brand reputation, and infrastructure. Digital transformation for the physical security world has evolved as innovation enables the harnessing of insights from video data to feed a dashboard of information for lines of business with revenue-generation initiatives. Together, physical and cybersecurity teams will be positioned to combat emerging threats, mitigate risk, and deliver value across the organization beyond their traditional roles.
Physical security systems are important tools for organizations needing to create safe and secure environments. Most of these solutions are made up of various components with a limited view of the environment. The access control system can tell you that Brad’s badge was used to open the north door at 8:35 am, but it has no way of knowing if it was actually Brad. Security cameras can show you someone came in, but not which badge was scanned. Having integrated systems is key to creating the holistic view of security that organizations need in order to thrive.
Unfortunately, traditional systems make this convergence challenging, and this leaves organizations vulnerable and in the dark. Adding to the challenge, physical security needs have also become more complex with time. New use cases like social distancing, asset protection, and lockdowns have arisen. It is crucial that organizations have flexible and agile platforms that can quickly adapt to meet the security needs of today and tomorrow. Traditional, on-premise security systems don’t make this easy. A smart, cloud-based platform like Meraki does.
Best-of-breed systems to secure and safeguard
MV smart cameras are a powerful security tool for organizations, but they are just one part of a complete physical security solution. While exploring physical access control solutions, Bret Hull, CTO at Meraki, explains why Openpath was the natural choice. “By partnering with Openpath, Meraki has found a rare opportunity to bring together two companies whose product development philosophy is rooted in shared beliefs around simplicity and security. This is why we’ve chosen them as our preferred access control partner.” What Meraki has done for security cameras, Openpath has done for physical access control, and this integration combines best-of-breed systems to secure and safeguard your organization.
The integrated solution, powered by the Meraki cloud platform, provides open APIs and a rich ecosystem of apps and partners across IoT and networking domains. Like Meraki, the Openpath platform is also designed with an open API architecture. Both platforms are easy to deploy, with flexible configuration options, remote cloud-based management, and unrivaled network and cyber security safeguards. Customers can apply this solution to use cases such as asset protection, emergency lockdown, social distancing, compliance auditing, business intelligence, and more. Compared to legacy or all-in-one solutions, Meraki and Openpath offer a premium, easily customizable and adaptable solution to meet a variety of business needs.
The partnership brings together real-time video and access control, giving customers a more complete picture of their environment. The Openpath Visual Activity Report ties together Meraki video footage with access control events, allowing organizations to audit activity and ensure that badge credentials match the person who is entering. Openpath alerts are made more powerful with linked video or snapshots, allowing administrators to quickly investigate and validate events.
An agile platform for current and future needs
The Meraki and Openpath integration provides customers with a convergence of cyber security, physical security, and business intelligence, enabling them to do more with less.
“This partnership gives organizations the benefit of a more complete, agile platform, which improves security and efficiency across the board,” said Openpath President James Segil. “Making day-to-day processes easier, faster, and more personalized is key to adapting quickly to ever-changing needs, and these two cloud-based solutions at the forefront of innovation are pivotal to achieving that flexibility.”
At the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute, the Meraki and Openpath integration is an integral part of their remote security management. Linking Openpath access activity with Meraki video footage enhances asset protection at the facility, providing better awareness of who is accessing the building and when, without physically being on site. To learn more about how this new integration can benefit your organization, visit Openpath on the Meraki Marketplace to request a demo, or reach out to your Meraki rep.
The mobile phone has become the most commonly used device we employ to simplify our lives. Today, there are over 3.5 billion smartphone users in the world. That’s about 44% of humanity. In 2016, the number was 33.58% of humanity (or 2.5 billion users), resulting in a 40% increase since then. It’s a good reminder of the prevalence of mobile technology in our lives.
How we go about our daily routines has changed due to this seismic shift. Our mobile phones help us read, watch, listen, play, nap, email, meet, cook, meditate, and even run. So why should managing your IT and network infrastructure be any different?
There’s an app for IT
Meraki has introduced a new mobile app rebuilt from the ground up, now available to download on Apple iOS or Android devices. It sports a brand new UX customized for mobile use-cases and features rock-solid authentication, benefiting from biometric identification features included in the latest phone models.
With the Meraki Mobile app, you get everything you need for IT and network operations wherever you are. You can quickly access alerting devices, identify potential problem clients, and easily navigate between networks and organizations. For devices, you can access live usage information, view and edit details, and run troubleshooting tools. For clients, you can view application-specific usage, update a client’s group policy, and check connection details. You can also receive notification alerts instantly, so the next time your CEO texts you mid-dinner in a panic, you can gracefully step away and resolve the issue between the entree and dessert.
Using follow through troubleshooting, you can now trace upstream connections clearly from a specific client in the app—no messy navigation or multiple tabs. It’s also a cinch to onboard devices from anywhere by scanning a bar code (or remotely by adding details manually) and then adding location and a mounting photo all in one spot. That means your afternoon walk doesn’t need to be disrupted by a misconfigured upstream VLAN. It’s the power of the Meraki platform in an app—just don’t walk into any poles while you’re updating settings.
The cloud in your pocket
Meraki was born in the cloud. Early in our existence, a team of engineers dreamed up a ground-breaking desktop web dashboard to manage networks with ease. Just like the rest of the Meraki platform, the app will continue to evolve with new features to empower our growing cadre of half-a-million customers to simplify their work life. So, go ahead and carry your entire cloud-managed work world in your pocket with the Meraki Mobile app.
The recent news that COVID-19 vaccine distribution will soon be underway provides a hopeful outlook for healthcare providers and individuals alike. The goal of the U.S. Federal Government’sOperation Warp Speed is to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines beginning in January 2021, so there is a lot of preparation to be done quickly.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a partnership with large chain pharmacies and networks. This program covers approximately 60% of pharmacies throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, further increasing access to the vaccine across the country—particularly in traditionally underserved areas.
A key component to successful administration of doses involves seamless delivery and storage of the vaccine to distribution centers both nationally and globally. It is important to think about three critical challenges to solve when considering vaccine distribution.
Physical security for vaccine storage
24/7 monitoring and security to help ensure the physical integrity of vaccines is crucial. Meraki sensors and cameras aim to provide a secure environment for loss prevention—including quality control monitoring and real-time detection alerts. Specifically, when it comes to storing the vaccine, being able to see how many times a freezer door was accessed is critical. Meraki solutions can also facilitate access control verification to help ensure that only authorized personnel are accessing storage facilities.
Mobile vaccine distribution
With Meraki Cellular Gateways (MG), you can deliver optimal customer and patient experience through a mobile-enabled ready-to-go solution for curbside, drive-through, or in-field vaccine deliveries. Thanks to Meraki’s cloud-first architecture and MG, pinning up mobile networks outside of traditional pharmacies and doctors’ offices—such as a pop-up vaccine distribution site—can happen at any location with cell signal, and across hundreds of sites in minutes, without any changes to infrastructure.
Traffic flow & store safety
Support safe queue management and traffic flow within potentially crowded vaccine distribution areas by monitoring guest movement patterns and line queuing. Our solutions can be used to enable real-time face-mask detection, provide 24/7 indoor/outdoor video surveillance, assist with risk mitigation, and deliver immediate alerting.
As COVID-19 vaccine distribution continues to evolve, it is important to consider the three critical use cases highlighted above. To learn more about the portfolio of Meraki solutions and how we can help you, visit our website or contact us today.
Service providers have long sought ways to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. Launching innovative services faster, getting to market more quickly, reducing integration requirements, embedding core services like fixed-line and cellular connectivity, and lowering overall costs are just some of the challenges service providers seek to overcome.
These objectives only become harder to achieve when faced with many disparate third-party technologies that don’t work well together, require a significant upfront investment, and are complex and costly to manage. That’s what makes our platform uniquely beneficial. Did you know there are currently more than 100 active managed services in the market with leading domestic and global service providers?
One of our successful partners is Cincinnati-based CBTS. Their Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) offering is the fastest growing managed service in the company’s history. The NaaS offering includes hardware, licensing, configuration, implementation, and co-management rolled into one simple monthly expense that can be scaled up or down for greater flexibility and lower Operating Expenditures (OpEx). Since launching the service four years ago, CBTS has more than 600 customers with an average site installation of just 30 days. The offering has driven revenue growth and reduced their quote-to-cash interval for lower OpEx.
Faster Service Launch Reduces Time to Market
What really separates us from the competition is cloud management. Every device in our portfolio is powered by our unique dashboard, which provides an easy-to-operate interface that can run on anything with a browser and an Internet connection, be it a phone, tablet, iPad, or notebook computer. It provides a consistent management experience across the entire portfolio whether that’s an Access Point, switch, security appliance, camera, Mobile Device Management (MDM) application, or sensor.
Service providers can easily and seamlessly manage multiple customer environments, from one to many thousands of devices. This flexibility enables them to offer many different value-added services to their customers, increasing their stickiness and Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). A customer could start off with managed Wi-Fi, then expand into managed Local Area Network (LAN), Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN), or security to name a few. Additionally, because cloud management is at the heart of the platform, service providers avoid the upfront cost of purchasing numerous different management tools and the complexity of stitching them all together.
The zero-touch provisioning of all devices and central cloud management means service providers have full network visibility, which substantially minimizes the need for on-site technicians or close physical proximity to the deployed devices. This significantly improves operational efficiency and lowers OpEx.
Our customers have more than seven million devices actively deployed around the world, providing a treasure trove of powerful data and intelligence. The vast pool of data being generated by these devices provides insights for service providers to enhance their offerings and streamline operations. For example, the dashboard allows them to see how many clients are connected at any point in time and how the services are performing from the client through to application. This information is then be used to pinpoint where the problem is occurring. Service providers can also utilize this insight across their customers regardless of size, from the smallest customer with a couple of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to enterprises with thousands of devices.
Simplifying Integration Requirements
A major component setting our solution apart is that our platform is API driven. We receive more than 120 million daily API requests from machine-to-machine integration. The extensibility of the platform through our suite of APIs allows service providers and customers to integrate the dashboard at the application layer into other third-party products. This enables them to streamline operations by automating provisioning tasks, creating value-added services that are focused on vertical-specific use cases, and differentiating their offers in the market.
Much of these can be achieved “off the shelf” by partnering with one of the 130 technical partners who have already pre-integrated their software into our APIs to solve use cases across a variety of different industry verticals. For example, many service providers use ServiceNow, a large cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) management tool used for back-end systems. The ServiceNow Connector connects with our APIs and enables customers to generate organizations, networks, devices, and device statuses for increased visibility. This application also allows users to generate device alerts for automatic incident detection and the creation of tickets in the platform.
Another example of powerful features and solutions our tech partners can help unlock is data generated from our security cameras to intelligently spot whether people are wearing masks. This business analytics solution generates reports and issue alerts when people are not wearing masks, accompanied by a video snapshot to help identify them.
The turnkey nature of our platform and the extensibility provided via APIs can substantially improve the time to market and overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for a service provider. Some operational advantages can easily be achieved through automating processes and tasks that previously might have taken days or weeks. These can now be done in only a few minutes, with no need for costly engineering oversight.
Service providers also spend a fortune building out core management platforms to support their services before a penny of revenue has been realized. Our platform enables them to be far more agile and take an iterative approach to their services via APIs into other systems. The full power of our platform is available on day one without any upfront expense since it comes as part of the software license tied to each device deployed.
And then there’s the “build or buy philosophy” that many service providers struggle with. If an organization has the vision and skillset it might choose the custom development route and use the APIs to build it in-house. If it doesn’t have a software development team, an organization might decide to buy off-the-shelf equipment and turn it on that same day. The large marketplace of pre-existing apps and rich API documentation provides flexibility for service providers to choose the best path to suit their unique requirements and ambitions. Either path leads to lower Capital Expenditures (CapEx) because of the cloud-based nature of the platform.
Embedding Fixed Line and Cellular
Managed service providers sell a variety of connectivity options including dedicated Internet access and Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) in conjunction with our devices. We conduct a lot of business with major cellular carriers and others who bundle our devices with their connectivity. Our devices also work off SIM cards.
With the MX security appliance, service providers can offer secure WAN connectivity, a cellular connection, and a management wrapper to a customer as a simple-to-consume package. The service provider can then deliver help desk, troubleshooting, and other services to assist the customer if something goes wrong. This is often the simplest first step for a service provider to enhance the value of their connectivity services and it introduces a multitude of value-added offerings they can provide to these customers in the future.
If you’re looking for a more agile way to launch differentiated, unique services in the market and create new revenue streams by solving fundamental use cases for your customers, please visit our website or contact us to learn more. We also encourage you to take a closer look at a real-world deployment of Meraki managed services by reading the CBTS case study.
There is no denying that traditional brick-and-mortar stores have faced significant changes over the last few years. A shift in consumer shopping behavior toward a preference for online experiences has only accelerated due to COVID-19, the effects of which has caused a large number of already struggling retailers to close their doors for good in recent months. As of August 2020, over 6,000 stores have closed due to bankruptcy, according to marketplace.org.
Structuring IT for long- and short-term agility is critical for retailers to keep up with dramatic market changes, serve loyal customers, and bolster brand affinity.
Let’s take a closer look at which digital solutions are enabling dynamic retailers to survive—and thrive—in this evolving business environment.
A shift to online
The ease of online shopping was accelerating at pace, even before the pandemic struck. Browsing a large variety of products on the go, along with one-click purchasing capabilities, has led to larger basket sizes and more frequent purchases. From adding to the grocery list while riding the bus to snatching up a great promotion for a designer shirt during a lunch break—retailers offer convenience by integrating digital experiences into their target customers’ everyday lifestyles.
With the challenges of shopping in physical stores this year, and the need for a bit of retail therapy, consumers have flocked to online retailers. From July to September, consumers spent $199.44 billion online with U.S. retailers, compared to $145.47 billion for the same period last year, an increase of 37.1%.
While the long-term effects of the pandemic on the retail industry are not clear yet, in the short-term, the shift to e-commerce has put an additional strain on online platforms, as consumers stay indoors and order groceries, clothes, and other goods online. For example, vegetable deliveries in China grew 600% year-over-year during the Lunar New Year in 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic there. Likewise, JD.com, China’s largest online retailer, reported a 215% increase in online grocery sales, representing 15,000 tons of food, during the first ten days of February. The impact for retailers broadly from this increased online demand falls into the categories of network capabilities, robust online channels that can support spikes in online traffic, and connected operations that can not only pivot quickly but provide bottom-line cost savings.
Adjusting to new realities
The pandemic is also requiring that retailers pivot how they think about serving their customers in-store and online. The challenge is to figure out how to maximize engagement in-store, despite additional precautionary measures, while leveraging digital tools to blend online and in-store interactions.
Shoppers value friendly and welcoming service, speed, efficiency, and convenience—but delivering on these expectations can be challenging while meeting safety standards during the pandemic. Solutions such as mobile PoS capabilities that eliminate long lines, digital displays that enable self-service, and cameras to monitor occupancy can help.
Retailers who are doing well online can take advantage of lower traffic in stores to upgrade their IT infrastructure to support such tools. Such an investment will continue to pay dividends even after full scale reopenings by creating differentiated experiences—enabling retailers to not only survive through the pandemic, but also to emerge with a competitive advantage.
As we look forward to the future of retail, it’s critical to rethink how we engage with shoppers. With the help of agile IT and the right digital solutions, retailers can enable a seamless experience for their customers and stay resilient during volatile times—supporting customers in whatever way they want to shop, may it be in-store or online.
Subscribe to our blog to find out how you can stay competitive in our retail series. To learn more about why Meraki is a great fit for retail, check out our retail webpage.
Cisco recently hosted their annual Virtual Manufacturing Summit—which included manufacturing executives, solution providers, and industry thought leaders—to address the ways that manufacturers can provide a safer and more secure workplace while maintaining high levels of factory uptime and worker efficiency.
The two-day event focused on how IT and OT groups within manufacturers must work closely to ensure safe and reliable operations while increasing productivity and profitability. During the Summit, Cisco’s SVP of Global Manufacturing and Logistics shared best practices around business resiliency in a post-pandemic environment.
The summit also included a breakout session with Bossa Nova Robotics, a Cisco Meraki customer. Founded in 2005 as a spin-off from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, Bossa Nova is a developer of advanced robotics technology designed to enable retailers to collect and process real-time intelligence about their inventory. The robots autonomously roam store aisles multiple times per day to confirm that each product is on the right shelf and has the right price. Bossa Nova’s robots are currently operating in over 350 stores globally.
During the session, Todd Shipway, Director of IT & Robot Communications at Bossa Nova, discussed how they leverage Meraki solutions in conjunction with robots to monitor the plant floor for safety and security. Shipway discussed the need to automate as much as they can in a post-pandemic world when it comes to manufacturing. He also discussed how Cisco Meraki has impacted their workflow during the pandemic and beyond.
As Shipway puts it, “As of right now we are 99% remote. The robots are still there and being tested and the Meraki solution has allowed us to keep an eye on our infrastructure.” To learn more about how Bossa Nova utilizes Meraki, explore their case study.
Learn more about Meraki products and explore how our solutions address critical manufacturing scenarios by visiting our website to get a deeper dive.
The future of healthcare is arriving at light speed in the form of tech innovations bursting with potential to upend how care is delivered and consumed—ultimately reducing costs, improving patient outcomes, and ensuring more equitable access to services globally. As organizations speed up their digital transformations and push closer to realizing these dreams, they must remain vigilant to security risks that imperil progress and ensure their systems are robust enough to handle new technology. With IT teams stretched thin thanks to COVID-19 response, hackers are hungrily circling.
These promising technologies, and others like robotics, nanotech, cloud, and quantum computing, will be familiar to anyone keeping their finger on the pulse of how healthcare may soon be transformed. These technologies are hovering over nearly every sector of our economy, materializing in day-to-day operations whether you are a manufacturer, a financier, or a retailer.
In fact, the world’s struggles with COVID-19 have squeezed previously unhurried plans for digital transformation into pressure-cooked timelines spanning mere days and weeks for many organizations. Entrenched roadblocks to progress like legal barriers, basic assumptions, and fear of lost competitiveness have crumbled by desperate necessity.
A prime example of these trends has been the sudden acceptance of telemedicine, which the healthcare industry has long flirted with but never eagerly embraced until now. Others include the widespread adoption of digitally enabled practices like remote patient monitoring, using technology to ensure compliant social distancing and contactless engagement, and the acceptance of virtual collaboration tools. And if you doubt that medical facilities will ever fully espouse a truly digital destiny, I present exhibit A: a high-tech, paperless hospital that offers a successful blueprint for facilities of the future.
Clear and present dangers
All of these technologies require a robust IT backbone to support their deployment and use, as well as to protect against the worrisome shadow of cyber threats. All of them will create prolific troves of data (much of it personal) that will prove irresistible to cybercriminals—who, by the way, are already laser-focused on the healthcare industry.
Hospitals and clinics are plum targets for heartless hackers because patient data is needed for life-or-death decision-making, and often needed quickly. The value of this data can literally be measured with human lives. Medical facilities are particularly vulnerable to a type of threat known as ransomware attacks—where trojans infiltrate victim networks and encrypt the data, rendering them unusable until a ransom is paid. In fact, just a few days ago, the FBI warned of imminent ransomware attacks against hospitals, and a handful of care facilities have already fallen victim. With COVID-19 stretching the bandwidth of harried IT teams, the calculus of hackers has been that now is the time to maximize profits. As a result, healthcare organizations everywhere have been reporting a worrisome uptick in threat activity.
As IT departments are being asked to do more with less, laying a secure (yet flexible) IT foundation is critical, not only to protect against cyber threats, but also to ensure that new digital technology investments perform at their peak. Ensuring this foundation is intuitive, easily managed from afar, and extensible with APIs and turnkey integrations can give IT admins peace of mind. Not only will they be able to support their networks without overwhelming them, but they’ll also have future-proofed their investments with a platform that can respond with new options and offerings when market demands arise. No one wants to substantially invest in solutions that are one-offs or that need to be tossed after a year or two of use because they’ve become rigid and out-of-date.
Necessity is the mother
Inventions have a way of arriving at their most critical hour of need, whether vaccine or VPN. For IT heroes bravely holding the line against malware hordes and the physical threats of a merciless pandemic, thoughtfully deployed technology can make all the difference to the tide of battle.
The efforts that hospitals and clinics are making to become more digital, more connected, and more actively data-driven are only the beginning. The pace of change speeds merrily along whether we want it to or not, and organizations that dig in their heels by resisting digital transformation and dismissing new methods of caregiving may soon find themselves obsolete in ways that hamper their broader missions and goals. But for those organizations seeking to be well-positioned to capitalize on the cost savings, efficiencies, and healthier patient outcomes that nearly-here innovations will unlock, investing in digital transformation and smart IT platforms is a good first step.
Over the past several months, we’ve seen healthcare providers leverage technology to quickly innovate and respond to the challenges brought on by the global pandemic. But what is the role of technology in healthcare as providers prepare for future investments?
Here are three things to consider as we look to the future of healthcare IT.
Staying connected through telehealth
The global pandemic has forced clinics and hospitals to transition nonclinical staff to remote working to ensure the safety of staff and patients. This has led to a more dispersed workforce of clinicians, administrators, and nonmedical staff, requiring the adoption of telehealth as a practical alternative for routine and critical patient consultation.
While telehealth can be a considerable investment for providers, fortunately, the recent CARES Act included $200M dedicated for the Telehealth Program. 539 applications from 47 states were approved by the Federal Communications Commission. While funding has been exhausted for the initial program, the FCC has other ongoing programs and resources to support telehealth.
At a time when hospitals and clinics are focused on taking care of patients and employees alike, network dependability and security should be the least of your worries. Network downtime and security breaches lead to poorer patient care and lost revenue—particularly in a time when noncritical procedures are being pushed out.
Additionally, a dependable and secure network makes it easier to manage and mitigate risks that could impact network scalability, which is critical if you need to rapidly deploy temporary clinics or pop-up testing sites.
But even with regular day-to-day operations, keeping your network running like clockwork is nonnegotiable. Even the smallest unexpected downtime can impact staff support, which in turn reduces the quality of patient care.
Fortunately, there are many innovative solutions to help healthcare providers rapidly scale their network while shoring up security. For example, cloud-managed IT solutions enable you to view and manage your entire network infrastructure from a single computer. You can also gain network visibility across dispersed locations, as well as monitor thousands of devices connected to it. One provider, Hospital Sisters Health System, which operates a network of 15 hospitals and clinics in the Midwest, upgraded to a cloud-managed IT system and saw significant improvements in the dependability and security of their network.
Digital transformation in healthcare has never been more relevant than it is right now. At a time when safety is top of mind, healthcare providers are looking to technology for ways to ensure staff and patients alike are far from harm’s way.
For example, one health provider has come up with a solution using cameras to monitor PPE (personal protective equipment) use from a safe distance. This deployment allows providers to deliver the best patient care possible while reducing risks from physical contact and optimizing the monitoring of multiple patients from one location.
During these challenging times, it’s important to be resilient and think outside of your comfort zone. The good news is, Cisco Meraki is here to help you do just that.