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Connecting Homes and People to Improve Lives

By Jason Kohn, Contributing Columnist

You hear the term “M2M” a lot these days in the tech industry, and it means different things for different people. Broadly, machine-to-machine communications is about connecting devices — virtually any kind of devices — to network applications.

But for me, one of the most interesting aspects of M2M is the ability to improve the lives of people with disabilities or impairments by bringing them network-based tools that were previously inconceivable.

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Virtualization In Healthcare: To Be Or Not To Be?

August 1, 2012 at 6:37 pm PST

Virtualization continues to be a hot topic in the healthcare industry with many industry pundits calling this technology a potential game-changer.  There seems to be a lot of excitement around how this technology can help the healthcare industry in terms of cost optimization and efficiencies. Some of the key virtualization drivers include the move towards electronic medical records (EMR) deployment, support for increasing number of mobile devices, and providing secure access to patient-sensitive data to authorized individuals (HIPAA compliance).  

I do believe that healthcare organizations have much to gain by embracing virtualization in their networks, data centers, and end-user workspaces, but they must have complete confidence that benefits can be achieved without compromising core requirements for clinicians, administrators, and IT.  In order to build this confidence, one must clearly articulate the “incremental” return on investment for adopting virtualization technology.  I have seen and heard several bold claims as to how virtualization is going to transform the healthcare industry but yet those very claims are light on how it’s truly going to help healthcare organizations be “incrementally” better.  I keep emphasizing “incremental” because that is the true value-add customers are looking for in order to justify their investments.  In today’s macro environment, everyone is being tasked to do more with less. 

In most healthcare environments, clinical and administrative applications are client-server based.  Often a nurse or a doctor who has to enter data into an application ―for instance, an EMR application― does so from a shared workstation. This task starts with the user identifying himself/herself through a secure login process that can take anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes. After entering the data, the user often immediately logs out, leaving the station available for the next user.  In an average healthcare setting, clinicians will repetitively access such workstations for data entry, sometimes as often as 50 to 70 times per shift.  The cumulative productivity loss can add up to about an hour (60 times, with a 1-minute login procedure each time). The nurse or the doctor could use this time more productively by meeting with patients or other clinicians and increasing the number of patients they can see.  This is just one example where virtualization could provide the “incremental” value-add by significantly cutting the productivity loss, which has a direct positive impact on patient experience. 

Healthcare industry is at an interesting cross-road due to the confluence of virtualization and cloud computing.  Several healthcare organizations are viewing virtualization as a stepping stone in their cloud journey. Increasing number of healthcare applications are being used in a virtualized environment – either at server level or desktop/mobile level.  This is resulting in simplified clinical workflows and providing nurses and physicians with fast access to the applications and information they need, wherever they are, to support positive patient outcomes.  Over the subsequent blogs, I will articulate how Cisco virtualization platform is providing the “incremental” value-add that gives the healthcare organizations the complete confidence they need to embrace this capability.  Until then, stay tuned.

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Cisco Repeats in “2012 Best in KLAS Awards for Medical Equipment and Infrastructure”

July 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm PST

KLAS recently released its “2012 Best in KLAS Awards: Medical Equipment & Infrastructure” reportand for second year in a row, Cisco’s wireless infrastructure, specifically the Cisco 7900 series phones earned the top spot in the industry.  As stated by KLAS, the Best in KLAS awards are based solely on the data from customers who provide feedback with the goal to ultimately improve healthcare through better technology. The awards recognize companies that offer excellent service and meet provider needs with product functionality. This report includes a total of 3,765 provider evaluations, including interviews with hospital and clinic executives, administrators, physicians, nurses, clinicians, directors, and managers interacting with healthcare equipment and infrastructure solutions.   Specific details on Cisco wireless products and infrastructure can be found in KLAS’s wireless infrastructure report.

Certainly this is very exciting news for Cisco, but I am even more excited about the fact that technology continues to improve quality of patient care and clinical workflows that ultimately enables a superior patient experience.   Wireless continues to be one of the key technologies that is truly transforming  the healthcare arena – whether it’s a doctor accessing patient records (in a secure manner) on his/her mobile device from any place -- any time or a smart pill ingested by a patient that is wirelessly dispensing the appropriate medication dosage based on patient vitals.  The graph below illustrates some of the key examples of patient care improvement that are being impacted by wireless technology. 

Examples of Patient Care Improvements

Source: KLAS

We can all have differing opinions on what is the most effective way of lowering cost within our healthcare system, but one undisputable fact is that technology continues to improve every aspect of the healthcare eco-system and I am really excited as to what awaits us in the next few years.  What do you think?

 

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The Service Provider Cure: Healing an Ailing Healthcare System

By Tine Christensen, Director of US Service Provider Practice, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG)

America’s healthcare system has been laid low with a scourge of acute symptoms. Spiraling costs, an epidemic of chronic diseases, and a spike in the senior demographic are all driving a mounting crisis. Throw in a gridlocked U.S. Congress and an unresolved regulatory climate, and a “miracle” cure seems a remote dream.

Lately, however, a healing light has been shining from a surprising source: service providers.

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Supreme Court Upholds the Healthcare Reform Act-What Do You Think?

The federal government will be allowed to tax people for failure to have health insurance. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty is unconstitutional under the commerce clause but allowable under a taxing clause.

The landmark decisions end two years of legal uncertainty and vigorous barbecue and cocktail party debates.  The decision has wide-ranging implications that are yet to be fully understood.

 ”The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the ruling.

The 26 states that opposed it said that while Congress has the authority to regulate interstate commerce, it doesn’t have the power to require people to buy a product.

One area of the law that did see a significant restrict ion was the portion of the law relative to the expansion of Medicaid, the government health-insurance program for low-income and sick people. The ruling gives states some flexibility not to expand their Medicaid programs, without paying the same financial penalties that the law called for.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the law will cost the government about $938 billion over 10 years.  The CBO has also estimated that it will reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over a decade.

It is unlikely this will be the last we have heard of it.  Our politicians will still have more to say.  And barbecues and cocktail parties will not be left bereft of conversation this summer.

What do you think?

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