Harnessing the benefits of HSCN requires more than just ‘connectivity’

benefits of HSCN
© Mohamed Ahmed Soliman |

Iain Shearman, MD, KCOM National Business, discusses why organisations must look beyond the procurement stage to reap the benefits of HSCN

It’s evident that NHS Digital has a vision for greater collaboration and improved access for health and social care services. However, the onus is on health and social care organisations to ensure they adopt its recommended framework and that the digital journey keeps pace with the rest of the sector.

As part of this, the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) data network has been widely adopted by NHS bodies across the UK. Those that have procured HSCN have subsequently enabled themselves to move to internet and cloud-based systems and protect themselves against potentially devastating cybersecurity threats.

As one of the building blocks in an organisation’s digital ecosystem, HSCN gives health and social care organisations the robust IT infrastructure they need to align with NHS Digital’s mission to ‘harness the power of information and technology to improve health and care’.

However, to truly reap the benefits of the new network, and deliver the best outcomes for the people they serve, organisations must look beyond the initial procurement stage and maximise everything the network has to offer.

A reliable network is the foundation for HSCN

There are three phases of IT implementation that organisation can follow up on to ensure it is maximising HSCN. Phase one involves optimising the bandwidth at each of site based on the needs of the organisation and cost-efficiency requirements, ensuring that HSCN is supported by a reliable network. With mobile failover and proactive network monitoring too, an organisation will have total peace of mind that a robust system is in place. Networks can also be opened up with Wi-Fi, letting different users access the network in different ways and creating an ‘always connected’ environment.

Accessing the cloud and its applications is crucial

With a reliable network in place, organisations can then explore ‘phase 2’. This includes exploring hosted voice services for efficient communication between staff. Moving to hosted platforms for voice needs provides clarity, flexibility and cost savings. Organisations should then consider cloud adoption, providing flexible, always-on access to applications and data the moment their workforce needs it. And with direct cloud connections to these platforms, organisations can offer speed, security and reliability when it’s needed most.

The next thing to consider is quick, secure and reliable data and application access, via direct, uncontended cloud connections. Organisations can get a safe, flexible hybrid hosting solution using Microsoft Azure, AWS and Google Cloud, alongside their UK-based supplier data centres. Office 365 can then be integrated and leveraged in order to let employees work smarter, anytime, anywhere.

More network control

The third and final phase that an organisation can undertake to maximise HSCN post-procurement is to gain more network control with SD-WAN. A 21st century network with performance and service at its heart, SD-WAN offers resilience and security, and is easily configured via the cloud.

HSCN connectivity to the public cloud will also be key. This will enable health and social care workers to securely access public cloud providers (e.g. AWS and Microsoft Azure) to leverage the associated cost and operational benefits. Finally, an organisation can become a truly mobile workforce by using mobility services that provide applications and devices that ensure employees can access whatever they need, wherever they are.

Whilst NHS Digital’s strategy is still evolving, and the migration to a new network may seem onerous, HSCN represents a major milestone in how health and social care is delivered. Every health and social care organisation stands to benefit from the greater collaboration, standardised networks and simpler access to national systems and applications that HSCN offers. By creating a robust IT infrastructure that combines connectivity, cloud and hosted voice, organisations can deliver the best possible care to those that need it.


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