Every month TechLAB Innovation Center’s Sara Rauchwerger shares her insight on industries requiring colocation data centers and cloud services based on current and future IoT demands. In our podcast today, we’re talking about the eHealth IoT trends. Subscribe to Sara’s next podcast in Automotive, Energy, Gaming, Retail, Smart Manufacturing, Smart City or Smart Buildings.
Ben: Welcome to the vXchnge Podcast series. I’m your host, Benjamin Hunting, and today we are talking about the Internet of Things and trends relating to it that will increasingly call for colocation data centers and cloud services to play a major role. With us today is Sara Rauchwerger, Founder and Managing Director of TechLAB Innovation Center. Thank you for being here today, Sara.
Sara: Thank you very much for inviting me.
Ben: eHealth, it’s something that’s been going strong for several years now, and this is a term that encompasses a wide range of concepts and technologies. I think what most people are familiar with are patient-facing services, the apps and small medical devices that monitor their health, whether we’re talking about tracking glucose levels if you’re a diabetic, counting steps for cardio or watching over your sleep cycle. All of this data that is collected, it must pose a significant challenge for data centers as the Internet of Things, which it relies on continues to grow and grow.
Sara: You’re absolutely correct. eHealth is growing by leaps and bounds but what you see so far is the consumer side mostly focused on preventative care. As you mentioned, with lots of gadgets monitoring body vitals, it’s just picked up and become a fad. At our TechLAB Innovation Center, it’s a tech startup center, we can see parts of the future in this industry. What we see is that this technology is just a piece of it from the angle of a consumer. But there’s another element of it, which is the enabling of the gadgets that you hear about that allow you to do much, much more.
For example, we have one company at our center, they’re called RigPlenish. They’re a resident. They’re working on maximizing paramedic productivity. What we don’t think about as a consumer is how our medical infrastructure is built. Amazingly, it’s still full of paper trail and even if it does not seem like there’s that much paper anymore when we go see a doctor and there’s some sort of technology, like automation of forms, there’s one piece that’s still missing, and that’s connectivity. So, back to the gadget, the gadget allows us to connect through sensors to tell us what we’re doing but we’re talking about the back end allowing eHealth to develop into a much broader and much more useful element in the whole eHealth environment.
So, back to RigPlenish, what they’re doing is they’re building an end-to-end data management application that automates paperwork at each stage which is very focused in particular on an ambulance run. It’s not an easy task to achieve because the health industry is extremely complex mainly due to privacy and security. But with the capability of technology and, more importantly, cloud infrastructure, there’s an interest now to push forward. Why? Because we could save lives. What RigPlenish is promising is to reduce an ambulance run from 40 minutes of paperwork down to four minutes. You can imagine how many lives we could save. At this particular point, if we’re going to start leveraging these types of technology, it means the data center plays a very important role. Speed, latency, reliability are essentials in making these promises realized. And to tell how serious eHealth is growing, this company has actually received funding from a well-known investors called Y Combinator. They’re an early seed investor in Silicon Valley. Some of their successes include Airbnb, Reddit, Heroku, Dropbox – so you know how serious this is. So I think there’s a lot of opportunities and the data center business is going to grow just because of these types of companies.
Ben: It’s interesting to me that you mention that…we’re talking about paperwork but you also mentioned security and protecting patient information. That’s something that everyone’s concerned about. We read about leaks and hacks and all sorts of problems with personal data in the corporate world, but in the medical world, there’s also a regulatory side that where the FDA or the CE, to achieve these certifications, you have to follow very rigid patient information protection structures. Can you maybe speak about how cloud services could help to ease the regulatory challenges that companies are facing with protecting patient data?
Sara: So what’s important is, number one, is reliability and integration of data. Some of the other challenges are the barriers to implementations and are making this adaptation in this industry much slower because of this. We also have the HIPAA Security Rules, which are an essential issue. I mean, this is something that’s dictated by the U.S. federal laws which focuses on assuring availability, confidentiality, everything you just mentioned – integrity, protection of electronic health information. So data has to be processed through a series of administrative physical and technical safeguards. How do we do this? From an operation standpoint, the reality is that all cloud ecosystems and enterprise infrastructure are available today and it’s forcing this industry to be disruptive. The difference in this industry is a mission critical application and they have to meet very high performance. It has to be available all the time and you have to meet a certain reliability standard.
So, how do we solve some of these problems? Well, cloud-based services overall have been remarkably reliable, which means to some degree it’s a little bit dangerous because customers are now putting all their trust in that. The healthcare industry is starting to use it and they continue to depend on this computer system, but they are, as you mentioned earlier, extremely vulnerable to data breaches caused by technology deficiencies such as theft. And most of the time, it’s insiders’ misconduct. So it has nothing to do with infrastructure. From our angle, when I look at cloud computing systems, it can be easily designed to be safer than what we call traditional client service systems, against the prevailing causes of what healthcare data breaches may think, but I don’t believe it could ever be perfect. There will need to be a compromise either in a process or a system adaptation, for example – so, it’s difficult. I believe there’s a solution and we’re going to move in that direction whether we want to or not because we’re capable.
Ben: And I guess moving away from security, that’s far from the only challenge that the Internet of Things is placing on the cloud environment. All that data that’s coming in, it’s great to have, but unless you can do something useful with it, it’s not really going to be helping anybody. So I was curious as to what types of analytic strategies you see emerging to help make better use of this data that’s coming in from all of these different medical devices and apps.
Sara: You’re correct. We have to look at it from another angle but, it actually evolved on its own. It has become very obvious that from the personal gadget, it’s more about us as individual people, which is a key trend in healthcare provisioning now. Leading steady growth and adaptation because we as consumers, patients, are accepting electronic medical records, electronic health records, personal health records and we’re okay with all that. So, other technologies are also kind of becoming integrated into this, like the clinical care, clinical information, patient engagement, clinical information. And what’s interesting is smart infrastructure because it needs to meet all of these requirements.
What is nice today is that data is not really location-based. So it doesn’t matter where the patient is or the doctor or the clinic, you can get information from anywhere. And at this point in time, let’s put aside privacy and security, patients are actually very happy and it improves the clinical outcomes. They can contact the doctor right there and now and get the information. So, to make all of this work, as I mentioned earlier, you do need a minimum standard of infrastructure and network capability to allow these electronic systems be available and be reliably available and secure, and the way to do this is through initiatives such as, health identity management – again, security and privacy strategies. We’re going to have to link to government data center because that’s how we cover the privacy of individuals. So naturally, it all facilitates into cloud technology trends that will continue to grow because we’re moving in that direction. I hope I answered your question. This is actually a very complex situation that we’re dealing with but, just like anything, I think we’re going to move in that direction and it’s going to grow, and the adaptation will happen because it’s already happening now.
Ben: Well, Sara, you very much did answer the question and I very much appreciation your willingness to talk about this fascinating subject. For our listeners, be sure to subscribe to Sara’s next podcast in Automotive, Energy, Gaming, Retail, Smart Manufacturing, Smart City or Smart Buildings.