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Introducing HealthOps: When DevOps meets connected healthcare

It’s often said that “every business today is a digital business.” This refers to the fact that businesses have been forced to digitize in order to meet the challenges and actualize the potential of fast-emerging new technologies and ever-changing customer demands.

Digitization and DevOps-ization

Digital transformation means different things to different industries, but it always requires a fundamental shift in the way that businesses operate. Undergoing a digital transformation doesn’t only refer to the technology, machines and devices that a business uses, it also includes the agile, lean and data-driven organizational structures, business models and processes implemented. Together, smart technology and forward-looking business practices deliver greater flexibility, improved collaboration, streamlined processes, more automation and quicker time to market.

It’s that optimal combination of technology, systems and processes that DevOps was designed to achieve. Though generally seen as a managerial approach to the software production cycle, the truth is that DevOps is something much more fundamental than that. It’s an organizational philosophy made up of certain core tenets. These tenets include:

  • Modularization — Large departments are broken down into smaller, more agile teams; projects are broken into smaller, more manageable sprints; and work is broken into chunks that allow for repeat use in different arrangements.
  • Decentralization — Big projects are broken up into component parts and distributed to different teams; teams self-manage; hierarchies are flattened and authority flows multi-directionally. This increases innovation, speeds up communication, avoids bottlenecks, reinforces employee ownership and unleashes more of an organization’s latent production potential.
  • Automation of workflows — Smart system integrations and workflow automations are introduced to reduce manual errors, introduce boundless scalability and accelerate value delivery cycles.
  • Testing — Carried out continuously and aggressively, testing is key to keeping all processes and their outcomes heading in the direction of improvement. This is where the rubber meets the road and the scrutiny so crucial to the scientific method is summoned. No matter how much an executive is in love with an idea, if it doesn’t survive testing, it doesn’t survive.
  • Big data and analytics — Data is collected ceaselessly on every aspect of the business environment and mined for business insights or product/service improvement dimensions.
  • Smart policies and tooling — The fact that so many different people are simultaneously — and largely autonomously — working on so many different parts of what will eventually need to come together as a cogent whol, makes it even more important that policies be clearly defined and fully enforced. Purpose-specific smart tools have a big role to play in this, as they can automatically track workflows and coordinate between disparate teams and tasks in the context of larger projects.

The business benefits of DevOps

Removing bottlenecks and waste from the value chain improves product quality and reduces time to market. Using DevOps methods, organizations are able to identify and correct errors earlier in the product chain, preventing problems from spiraling out of control and resulting in excess downtime. With automation, DevOps frees up skilled employees to focus on innovation and improvements to your business infrastructure.

Some stats to back up these benefits:

  • Advanced DevOps users see a 75% drop in time to market;
  • Seventy-seven percent of companies said that DevOps practices improved employee satisfaction and retention;
  • Eighty-seven percent reported that DevOps improved the customer experience;
  • Process efficiency and business growth both improved by 40% among DevOps users; and
  • IT-related costs dropped by 65% in DevOps companies.

Introducing HealthOps

As the business world digitally transforms, the healthcare arena is running to catch up. Healthcare delivery organizations have had to adopt electronic medical records and connected medical devices have arrived on the scene to add another layer of complexity. On top of that, patients are looking for more of a consumer experience from their healthcare providers — they expect choices, quality care, personalized treatment, fast delivery and transparent terms.

It’s only a matter of time until the healthcare industry adapts and embraces DevOps-based approaches that businesses in every other industry are already using.

The benefits of HealthOps

The future of healthcare is HealthOps and it promises great things. Among other benefits:

  • Healthcare providers can organize, analyze and mine complex data from disparate sources. Improved analysis and data sharing will enable them to avoid preventable diseases, predict epidemics, increase the accuracy of diagnosis and improve patient care with more agile, personalized treatment.
  • Continuous iteration, testing and integration bring fast, frequent incremental updates. This results in less downtime for critical medical devices, improved speed and performance for health apps, and fewer software and processing errors.
  • Automation, modularization and decentralized processes increase efficiencies and free up your human talent to better innovate, communicate and collaborate while, at the same time, improving healthcare infrastructure.
  • Data collection and policy enforcement mechanisms passively generate the documentation required to demonstrate regulatory requirements. What’s more, automated backups and checks help streamline the process of compliance across multiple environments.

The dark side of HealthOps

Great promise notwithstanding, HealthOps opens up new vulnerabilities — particularly as it pertains to cyberattacks. More connected devices, greater automation and decentralization leave open more opportunities for a security breach — unless advanced security is baked into HealthOps practices.

For example, many connected healthcare devices allow for remote telemetry to communicate key measurements to staff who might be out of sight of the device. This makes a lot of sense and makes it a lot easier to better monitor more patients. But since so many devices are built on modularized software and hardware frameworks, designed for repeat use and diverse application, they often come with built-in functionality that is at best unwanted and at worst dangerous. When the digital framework used by a medical device to enable remote telemetry, for instance, also enables remote control, it can be a big problem. That was exactly the case when it was discovered that a popular syringe pump could be hijacked through hospital networks, allowing hackers to turn the pump on or off, speed up or slow down the drug delivery rate, silence alarms and more.

To put it simply, healthcare is on a knife’s edge. Thanks to years of technological and business process advances, HealthOps is positively transforming the full spectrum of possibilities. At the same time, without taking cybersecurity much more fundamentally into account, HealthOps could bring disaster. So, what’ll it be?

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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