By Aaron Johnson, senior product manager, ATEN Technology, Inc.
With the continued spread of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever for healthcare organizations to continue implementing ways to keep employees and patients safe, while improving patient care and keeping patient data secure. Many healthcare organizations are turning to KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) solutions to help with the increasing need for smarter and safer healthcare solutions.
A few examples:
- Remote IT admins – IT admins can access critical servers when working remotely. Remote desktops only allow one connection to one server at a time, but a KVM provides a Windows explorer view of ANY server connected to that KVM.
- Remote lab automation – Employees can stay safely away from contaminated areas using a KVM over IP device to access devices in lab areas.
- Remote nurse station monitoring – video extenders and KVM extenders allow nurses to obtain real-time patient data from a remote station without being physically inside the room with the patient. This allows for a controlled, clean and secure environment.
- Command and control through security and surveillance – Security employees can monitor all entry ways, control opening/closing and locking or unlocking doors from a distance.
Trends in Smart Healthcare
A few trends driving the need for these solutions include:
IoMT and Connected, Integrated Smart Healthcare Systems
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is a connected infrastructure of medical devices, software applications and health systems and services. Integrating different healthcare delivery systems into one mechanism has created the concept of smart healthcare. Not only has this pushed the focus from just caring for the sick to promoting the general health and well-being of people, but it has driven technological advances that connect various health IT systems for ease of control and communication.
Smart technologies, such as virtual health, wearables, sensors and biometrics are already driving this transition to new healthcare delivery models that focus on streamlining processes and making use of cutting-edge digital innovations and information systems. Such developments, including those in artificial intelligence, cognitive technology and robotics are accelerating automation, while telehealth, digital medicine and remote monitoring are already part of larger connected, integrated smart healthcare systems.
Increasing Demand for High-Precision Medical Imaging
Reliable video has always been an important component to healthcare IT, predominantly related to the exponential growth in picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) used to securely store and digitally transmit electronic images and clinical reports. As the volume of digital medical images grows, and data analytics of those images becomes more prevalent, the demand for video at the highest possible resolutions for the most detailed images continues to increase.
The seamless and stable transmission of high-resolution video has become a prerequisite that medical imaging systems are expected to handle (up to 4K), and delivery must be low latency across long distances with no signal degradation. In addition to high-precision audio video signal extension devices, other infrastructure equipment, such as KVM switches, must be able to support the required resolutions and refresh rates.
Digitization Driving Demand for Increased Security
The move toward patient-centered healthcare models and medical information systems is requiring unprecedented levels of security and data protection. Alongside the digitization of healthcare records of electronic medical records (EMRs) is the push for paperless hospitals and the increasing government regulations surrounding data management and patient privacy. Secure KVM switches that are commonly seen in government and military environments are now enabling medical staff to easily switch between sensitive patient data and non-private applications on the hospital network.
Healthcare Use Cases
Medical Imaging: Live Surgery, Remote Monitoring and MRI Diagnostics
A hospital decides to implement a state-of-the-art medical imaging transmission system to enable doctors to perform surgeries and real-time diagnoses more effectively. The solution needs to transmit content, such as live surgery video from the doctors’ head-mounted cameras, patient vitals, medical records, MRI equipment and a picture archiving and communication system (PACS), accessible from various locations inside the hospital.
- Medical imaging needs to be instantly accessible from various locations throughout the hospital.
- Requires clear and stable video images for monitoring.
- Compatibility with a wide range of medical equipment in a hospital environment.
- A tailored solution for medical-grade applications with easy-to-use media distribution management software.
The solution: Integrating seamless switching will deliver instant and stable video over long distances over a single cable, while converting various resolutions to ensure top quality. Additionally, adding HDBaseT KVM extenders will allow MRI equipment to be accessed and operated with zero latency while uncompressed video with pixel-to-pixel quality is reliably delivered to the operator’s room for real-time diagnosis.
Centralized Management: Laboratory Automation and Medical Diagnostics
A biotech company is looking for a centralized control solution to integrate with its automatic laboratory processing system (APS) for medical testing stations. Pre- and post-analytic APS manages blood test machines and computers, and the control solution needs to increase efficiency by enabling operators to manipulate the target computers without having to walk the length of the testing station lab (which can exceed 100 feet) just to perform simple input operations.
- Needs to integrate with the client’s own modular APS system for diagnostics.
- Increase management and control efficiency across multiple testing stations while reducing the number of operators to keep costs down.
- Operators need to run multiple testing stations from one screen.
- Ensure system security by providing a non-software-based centralized management solution.
- Install multiple desktop PCs in a confined space.
The solution: A KVM will allow an operator to easily access and run all stations through a KVM instead of going to each station and running them individually. A KVM solution can also to provide multi-user access to different APS systems simultaneously without interfering with other users’ tasks.
Media Distribution: Medical and Surgical Training
In order to offer physicians and trainees the ability to achieve and assess proficiency through simulation and pace-appropriate, structured supervision, an advanced training center for minimally invasive surgery (MIS) is established to instruct doctors using real-time observation of surgical procedures, instructional demonstrations, virtual reality stations and other interactive simulations and lecture halls. These are all connected to monitors in remote classrooms and seminar rooms which are dispersed across an area of a couple hundred meters.
- Video distribution system for keyhole surgery procedures and more.
- Highest possible resolutions and no breaks in the video feed.
- A modular, easily upgradeable, latency-free switching system that would connect the operating room and simulation centers to multiple output destinations.
- Hardware output including DVI and HDMI channels.
The solution: A KVM over IP solution can deliver low-latency feeds across long distances at the highest resolutions with no signal degradation, while FrameSync technology synchronizes output for VR systems, helping to provide an ideal learning environment while protecting against early obsolescence and minimizing the complexity of the media distribution video network. DVI and HDMI are integrated into one system, allowing students and lecturers to smoothly switch to alternate video feeds as required.
Control Room: Healthcare Equipment Monitoring and Remote Observation
A hospital wants to redesign its wards into a mix of group and individual patient rooms that could be conveniently monitored 24/7 from a single, central control room. The healthcare monitoring system needs to integrate ECG equipment, medical records access, surveillance equipment and more. This includes the installation of a 3×3 video wall to flexibly display a wide variety of inputs.
- Long-distance 4K HDMI distribution solution for a 3×3 video wall.
- Various medical, surveillance and other input sources need to be centrally controlled and easily managed.
- Requires an improved and highly integrable healthcare monitoring solution that is also set up for fast responses.
The solution: Provide long-distance 4K HDMI distribution for a 3×3 video wall to flexibly display ECG and surveillance output as well as PC, TV and microscope/camera AV content, while allowing a wide range of inputs and other controls to be easily accessed via a handheld device. Doctors can multitask and monitor patient health remotely via the video wall for efficient daily operations, in addition to having instant access to current readouts and patient medical records. A media distribution solution integrates smoothly with the existing video conference system so that medical records and current status of patients can be transmitted to other hospitals for immediate discussion.
Solutions Considerations and Challenges for Implementers
For vendors that supply AV delivery and control signal solutions as part of these wider, more integrated healthcare systems, adapting to changing consumer needs, demands and expectations means finding ways to provide solutions that not only increase access and efficiency, but also drive innovation in intelligent control systems and consistently improve AV quality.
Considering this, those in charge of implementing AV and control systems for healthcare applications face numerous pain points and challenges, including:
- Must integrate with healthcare equipment.
- Must provide pristine video in real time with support for HDR and grayscale.
- Must provide long-distance transmission.
- Must provide critical reliability.
- Should include control signal transmission.
- Should provide access to analytic data in real time.
- Should provide remote access to database on cloud-based platforms/hospital intranet.
- Must be secure and meet stringent healthcare data security protocols.
Healthcare organizations should seek out a vendor that provides a full range of AV and control signal transmission solutions for healthcare use. Look for companies that specifically focus on providing high-precision video quality and control accuracy that meet the high demands of critical medical and healthcare applications.
When searching for the technologies themselves, look for solutions that:
- Provide seamless AV and control signal transmission extended over long distances – The solution should deliver fast, reliable and continuous video streams with instant real-time source switching and control without delays. Control solutions should utilize HDBaseT or KVM over IP access to meet the demands of both critical healthcare applications and media distribution systems.
- Integrate with medical and surveillance equipment – Solutions should be EMI certified and integrate with most network-based healthcare equipment, including PACS and ECG equipment, MRI/CT scanners, remote monitoring systems, APS systems, EMR systems and more, increasing interoperability among medical devices and healthcare IT systems.
- Has high level of security and remote access management – the solution should provide secure, reliable, remote access to analytical data for health monitoring of multiple patients from one location in real-time, while also providing high levels of security and adjustable authority levels.
- Are flexible, scalable and customizable – The solution should provide a level of flexibility that is future-proof, scalable and implementable across a wide range of healthcare applications, helping IT infrastructures grow in step with advances in medical technology.
Overall, you want a company that understands the increasing complexity of healthcare requirements in today’s world with the ultimate goal to improve on patient care, keep employees and patients safe, while also increasing security within the environment – whether it’s a hospital, doctor’s office or lab. Building an intelligent, secure and collaborative control room environment will allow healthcare organizations to continue accessing patient data in real-time safely while handling critical emergencies from any location.