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Is hybrid IT the solution to the NHS’s digital ambitions?

The NHS has grown to become one of the largest and best public health systems in the world. Our recent blog post provides just a glimpse into how technology has impacted its incredible 70-year history.

The question is – in the digital era that we live in, what does the future hold for the NHS? And how can we as an industry help the NHS achieve its ambitions?

Technological advances like the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Intelligent Edge (IE) are starting to change the world as we know it and there’s no doubt they will impact the NHS too. IoT-enabled medical beds, for example, are currently being trialed in NHS organisations across the UK to tackle clinical challenges such as dementia, diabetes and mental health.

Even Prime Minister Theresa May recently pledged that AI will help the NHS prevent over 20,000 cancer-related deaths each year by 2033.

While it’s difficult to predict how such technological advances will realistically shape the future of healthcare, the NHS is clearly under pressure to not only keep up with ever increasing demand but to also innovate.

Whether it’s IoT, AI, IE or indeed any other revolutionary technology, the NHS needs to have a strong and future-proofed IT environment in place that enables the secure access and movement of data across a variety of systems and networks connected to these technologies.

Within the NHS, Advanced computing and data sharing will become ubiquitous; requiring an infrastructure that meets security and privacy regulations whilst bridging the gap between primary, secondary and tertiary care. One that can also be resilient and intelligent enough to withstand potentially catastrophic cyber-attacks.

Simply put, we must prevent the NHS’s digital transformation turning from utopia to dystopia.

An advanced technological infrastructure is therefore needed and hybrid IT could be just the medicine. Hybrid Infrastructure is a strategy, not a solution. It combines cloud computing with on-premise IT, enabling the NHS to migrate some applications to the cloud while keeping certain resources ‘in-house’.

What’s great about the cloud is that it can be configured, consumed and be brought online faster than traditional IT platforms, coupled with the flexibility to scale on demand – a critical requirement in the healthcare sector. It consequently enables the NHS to experiment with the cloud, which will be the backbone of many IoT, AI and IE projects, and bring applications to market faster.

Some applications can, however, be too expensive or critical to move to the cloud. After all, the NHS has invested decades into traditional IT so it can’t simply relinquish these resources overnight. It will continue to own and operate internal IT services that house vital applications and data, making it perfect sense for NHS organisations to operate on-premise as well as in the cloud. But the NHS will need the support of IT suppliers like telent.

As analyst firm IDC points out in a recent report, which is sponsored by one of our partners Hewlett Packard Enterprise (hyperlink to new HPE Partner Page), the opportunity for IT infrastructure suppliers is here and now. It believes that IT suppliers ought to build hybrid IT stacks and combine them with partner ecosystems to meet the urgent needs of organisations struggling to reap the benefits of hybrid IT.

At telent, we have invested in building relationships with some of the leading network and technology vendors in the industry. The NHS can be sure that we will design and create a hybrid IT solution built on the very best and most appropriate technology for its needs.

We advise on both legacy and emerging technologies too, so that any technology or network service will not only work in harmony with existing NHS systems but will also offer a clear roadmap for future development whether that’s IoT, AI or IE.

Finally, we recognize that security and privacy is a top priority. Following the WannaCry ransomware attack which devastated hospital IT systems in May 2017, the NHS is unsurprisingly taking no risks when it comes to IT infrastructure and services. Any hybrid IT model must therefore provide the perfect balance between steady-state operations and future-state initiatives without compromising security and privacy.

While some critical applications and data will remain on-premise, the cloud is no longer recognised as the less secure counterpart. Earlier this year, NHS Digital published the cloud computing guidance for organisations on how to use public cloud solutions safely and securely. Times are clearly changing and we’ll soon see hybrid IT become the new ‘normal’ for the NHS – just as it is already for many organisations in a variety of other industries.

It might not ever adopt a cloud-only approach, but if the NHS is to deliver better patient outcomes through new and innovative technologies, it will need to augment or replace traditional IT systems with the cloud. The future of the NHS, then, is hybrid IT.

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