By Craig Penfold, Chief Customer Officer, RealVNC
The United States spans 9.834 million km², making it the 3rd largest country in the world. This expansive area means there are many rural communities, cut off from major cities by hours of driving. Although the tranquility of this setting is wholly appealing, when there is an emergency, it makes it far more difficult for emergency services to reach the area. While around 20% of the US population—more than 50 million people—live in rural areas, only 9% of the nation’s physicians practice in rural communities. As such, it was reported in 2017 that rural Americans are more likely to die from problems like heart and respiratory diseases, likely in large part due to having less access to healthcare.
To address this issue, healthcare businesses have begun to employ more remote doctors and nurses, those who can service areas that do not have quick and easy access to doctor’s surgeries or hospitals. To do their job properly – responding to emergencies in hard-to-reach areas and potentially servicing hundreds of patients in a day – these healthcare professionals rely on Internet devices. These devices act in the same way as medical charts do for doctors, providing the most up-to-date information about a patient and their situation.
The devices – whether that’s a cell phone or a tablet – provide remote medics with the information they need to prepare for arriving on the scene of an incident. If a device crashes therefore, it could be disastrous for both the remote medic and their patient. Without the device, a medic cannot access information about an incident, including any patient records that would give information about any allergies or history of illness, and therefore would mean the medic is unable to complete their job safely. In this situation, the remote medic would not be able to take the job, which would leave the patient vulnerable while an alternative option reaches the scene – which could take hours longer.
Therefore, it is vital that devices being used by remote medics are working at all times – IT teams need to act quickly to ensure medical professionals can do their jobs. Therefore, they need a solution which can give them instant access to devices so they can fix any issues quickly without travelling. Having remote access solutions on medical devices ensures they can instantly act – maintaining devices, securing data and ultimately allowing medical staff to do their job and save lives.
There are also several risks that come with holding data on a single device as opposed to on a remotely-accessible server. For example, with much of the medical data held on devices being extremely sensitive, the theft or loss of the device holding it can be potentially ruinous for patient and provider.
To add to this, endpoint and targeted ransomware attacks are on the up across industries with the increased sophistication of cyber criminals – this means healthcare organizations run a greater risk of a data breach if they do not ensure their technology is up to scratch. Without being able to remotely access malfunctioning or at-risk devices quickly and easily, support teams lose a huge amount of efficiency and the potential negative effects of any hack or incident are significantly amplified. Any incident that puts customer data at risk, or loses it, causes damage not only to end customers but also to the relevant company’s reputation, finances and structure.
In today’s quickly digitalizing world, the importance of healthcare businesses mitigating endpoint threats and getting devices back up and running as soon as possible cannot be understated. It is becoming clear that healthcare providers have a responsibility to their patients and the general public to keep up with emerging technologies. Remote access technology is at the core of the smooth operation of these devices, and given the often life-critical situations they are deployed in this responsibility only intensifies.
Over the coming months and years, we will see an inevitable migration of more healthcare providers towards using remote devices to ensure constant access to vital data and resources. While I predict that this shift will be a natural one (businesses across the spectrum are adapting to the ‘always on’ requirements of modern day society), this is not to say that some businesses cannot get ahead of the pack in the meantime. With the astonishing speed of technological change we are currently witness to, we should not have to compromise on the safety and support we can offer those that live in remote areas not easily accessible by medical teams. While remote access technology is already out there and being used in the healthcare industry, businesses need to be sure that uptake speeds up given the numerous and crucial benefits it provides.
With the added connectivity that adopting remote access technology brings, healthcare businesses can begin to catch up with other sectors such as IT, which regularly uses remote support services across the workforce, from office laptops to hospitals. Implementing the technology will also increase the likelihood of enhancing its capabilities and uses, leading to more complex applications.
Indeed, the potential for the technology could go far beyond its most advanced current uses within the sector: in the future trainee surgeons could receive advanced virtual training and ‘remote into’ an operating theatre to monitor and calibrate critical equipment in real-time, from a dashboard. Universal screen-sharing could also help in creating ‘connected hospitals’, where everyone from surgeons to doctors can get real-time remote support from an expert at any location and trainee workers can remotely engage with diagnostics and procedures from certified devices.
All in all, the faster the industry can anticipate and act on the uptake of remote access technology into its day-to-day operations and patient support services, the better off it will be. Fully embracing these innovations and driving them forward should be a top priority for enhancing patient welfare and making workers’ jobs easier and more efficient. The move towards increasing the number of remote doctors and nurses is one that should be embraced by healthcare professionals, providers and patients across the board.