Pandemic Has Increased Demands On Healthcare Networks

Driven by major changes in IT demands, providers are seeing a greater need for network resilience and security, a new study concludes. This includes the need to tackle soaring demand for the bandwidth needed to provide virtual services.

The survey, which was conducted by IDG and co-sponsored by Masergy and Fortinet, surveyed IT leaders working in hospitals, primary and urgent care centers, pharmaceutical companies and other healthcare entities.  It was designed to examine how pandemic-driven changes such as increases in telemedicine use and a shift to remote work have impacted networks within these organizations.

It found that these forces have increased healthcare companies’ demands for network resiliency, cloud security and integrated approaches to address these problems.

Researchers found that 95% of respondents saw an increase in network traffic since March 2020, driven by services such as virtual doctor visits, pop-up clinics, and new work-from-home requirements. Ninety-two percent reported that they had to boost their network bandwidth capacity to support the growing number of connected medical devices running on their network.

Given the extent to which healthcare organizations are being targeted, it’s little surprise that enterprises are spending more, with 54% of respondents stating that they expect IT budgets to grow this year.

As traffic volumes continue to grow, network security challenges continue to emerge, in arenas that include cloud security (46%), securing of medical connected devices (46%) and securing the remote and mobile workforce (36%).

To address these issues, 71% said they think it’s very important to integrate network solutions with security policies. More specifically, 60% said they had a single security architecture maintaining consistent security policies across multiple locations. In addition, 65% said that integrating the security infrastructure with SD-WAN solutions was either critical or highly important.

To tackle these challenges 87% said that there were interested or very interested in secure access service edge converged set-ups combining WAN capabilities with network security functions.

Also, 80% said they were likely or very likely (44%) to engage a managed services provider to handle network and/or security services. This is not a big surprise given that these functions are generally underfunded by their internal IT departments, making it difficult for these internal departments to scale services when need be. As the survey rightfully underscores, MSPs can be the answer to a very difficult problem in some cases.

The question of how the providers will scale their capacity to support high-bandwidth services such as video visits is still open, however. While the demand for such services may fall sharply as the pandemic wanes, it seems that the COVID fight is far from over. In the meantime, providers are going to have to do some fancy dancing if they want to not only offer these services but provision them with enough bandwidth to allow for high-quality communications. I’m sure they’ll figure something out but it’s not going to be easy.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

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