Belfast Telegraph

Intelligent connectivity for intelligent healthcare

Digital future: the NHS’s intelligent connectivity is fundamental to enabling it to meet the demands of a modern health service
Digital future: the NHS’s intelligent connectivity is fundamental to enabling it to meet the demands of a modern health service

By Keiron Salt, BT Chief Information Officer for the health sector

I am proud of how BT has worked in partnership with the National Health Service since 1948. I'm prouder still of our continued commitment to bring our investment in transformative communication to enable the NHS to deliver smarter healthcare across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

To deliver the NHS's ambitions for digital transformation and to help deal with the increasing demand on health services requires intelligent connectivity.

This is the powerful combination and flexibility of Software-defined networking and fixed and mobile networks such as high-speed 5G networks to best connect people, and benefit from cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Intelligent connectivity delivers a software-defined network (SDN). SDN and network function virtualisation capabilities are becoming more mainstream enabling much greater control, flexibility and visibility across not just the organisation's network but across applications and security. This is what makes connectivity intelligent.

An integrated and evolving health and social care service needs secure, reliable and fast-flowing information.

Intelligent connectivity is the key foundation technology that ensures critical applications and information is always available at the point and instant it is needed.

It improves organisational efficiency through increased flexibility, agility, security and efficient use of bandwidth and gives greater control of your network, making it smarter, faster and safer.

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Intelligent connectivity underpins highly critical and bandwidth-hungry solutions in healthcare that form part of NHS long term plans. This will include prevention programmes and community care for healthier citizens where people will be cared for in their own home by being monitored through wearable devices.

Digitally enabled care will also include providing high quality and timely information to empower clinicians and paramedics in the diagnostic and treatment process. It will enable specialists to collaborate as they review high quality MRI scans and X-rays and use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse and support decisions - which is in effect an additional 'virtual' colleague in the room.

These long-term plans will also see the expansion of online consultations including video consultation between doctors and patients which could reduce outpatient appointments by a third. All this will be helped by the rapid transfer of test results and clinical images from care settings close to the patient, to the relevant specialist.

Transforming networks is critical. BT and EE, part of BT Group, has created converged, smart networks to seamlessly connect our customers wherever they are.

The UK's first 5G service launched in Belfast in May and in other launch cities which included London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester offering increased speeds, reliability and connectivity. This ultra-high speed will deliver and open a world of new applications and opportunities for the NHS both locally and nationally.

As cloud brings agility, the connectivity needs to be agile too. Intelligent Connectivity offers the agility to quickly set up connectivity based on business usage of applications, self-service and intelligently steering traffic based on where the applications are hosted.

In order to retain the public's trust, patients' sensitive, personal data must stay secure and confidential.

Cloud adoption, use of the internet and flexible working is challenging the traditional security model.

Visibility across the network is now critical in defending against the continuous security threats. SDN provides this and controlled security with end-to-end encryption across the entire network.

As the NHS looks to a digital future, their intelligent connectivity is fundamental to enabling them to meet the increasing complexity and demands of a modern health service. BT is committed to helping the NHS on that transformative journey.

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Belfast Telegraph