The NHS is in the midst of a tech revolution. But as we explain to Health Business magazine, healthcare digitalisation depends on data centres providing the necessary processing power.
The health service treats a million patients approximately every 36 hours. An increasingly aging society places huge pressures on an already struggling system.
Digitalisation promises to ease the unbearable burden on health and social care, with smartphones, wearables, sensors, and apps having a part to play in changing how the healthcare system operates.
Whether it’s AI-led chatbots and video consultations as a patient’s first port of call, data-driven diagnosis and condition management, or virtual assistants reducing red tape for nurses and doctors, healthcare digitalisation has huge potential.
But putting greater emphasis on the ‘Internet of Things’ to transform the medical sector only makes sense if the processing infrastructure can handle the increased demand.
We explain to influential industry publication Health Business why a “data centre in a box” could prove to be the unlikely key to unlocking digitalisation in medical environments such as hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, and laboratories.
Edge Computing And The NHS
To truly reap the rewards of tech and data, real-time processing is required. But that isn’t feasible with traditional enterprise data centres or modern cloud facilities.
Transferring petabytes of information hundreds or thousands of miles for processing is expensive and slow. There are also data protection and cybersecurity challenges to consider too.
When you think about mobile phone coverage, there isn’t one single aerial everyone’s connected to. There are more than 40,000 masts spread across the UK. More of these are found in heavily populated locations where there are the most users – and demand.
Thinking about data and the solution seems obvious. Instead of sending information to and from the data centre, bring the data centre near to where the information is being created.
Rather simplistically, that’s what edge processing is. A network of local data centres that make low latency processing possible.
Containerised Data Centres
Naturally, it isn’t feasible to install full-size data centres at every hospital or NHS Trust. This is where micro or modular data centres come into their own.
These bit barns contain all the key infrastructure you’d find in an Amazon or Microsoft data centre. It just so happens everything’s shrunk into a fire and weatherproof steel shipping container.
Containerised data centres are built and tested offsite, then transported to its final destination for installation. They can be up and running in less than two months, at a fraction of the cost of a conventional facility.
Because of their compact nature, they can be installed in restricted spaces or areas designed with the needs of a data centre in mind. Think a car park, a spare office, or even stacked on a building roof.
This versatility is why micro data centres are becoming an increasingly popular choice for budget and floorspace-restricted hospitals.
Other advantages include the modular nature, which offers the flexibility to scale up or down depending on demand, and the portability.
Containerised data centres are classed as temporary structures, so don’t require the usual planning permissions. While providing the container complies with the complies with Lloyd’s Register Container Certification Scheme (LRCCS), it can be easily moved between locations by road, rail, sea, or air.
Our article goes on to highlight the importance of modular UPS systems in ensuring a clean and consistent power supply to micro data centres.
It also outlines why preventive UPS maintenance is essential in mission-critical environments such as healthcare.