Industry analysts Frost & Sullivan have predicted positive, if qualified, growth of Internet Protocol Virtual Private Networks (IP VPNs)  in healthcare across Europe over the next few years.

IP VPNs allow external access to networks so that clinicians can access patient information and health records. Internally, VPNs they can be used both for sharing data and internal mobile and fixed-line phonecalls, and provide greater connectivity and potential for security.

Lucy Liu, telecom research analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said: "The European healthcare industry represents 10%  of the total IP VPN services market’s growth potential at the moment. This is evident from the rapid uptake of IP VPN services in the last six months which hiked the market growth rate to 40 per cent due to the increased demand in the healthcare ICT industry."

IP VPNs can be costly to implement, says Liu, and there may not currently be a large uptake of them due to financial constraints. But one growth market might be in new countries who have joined the EU, and VPNs have a secure future across Europe due to the increasing amount of digitisation of health records across the continent.

As well as financial constraints on behalf of healthcare organisations and governments, another major barrier to their adoption is the fact many healthcare organisations already have legacy broadband networks and they may be contractually unable to switch systems.

Overall, however, Liu says that IP VPNs will eventually spread across hospitals in Europe. There are a number of benefits that come from having a hospital’s VPN shared across the internet. One is increased security -firewalls can be integrated into the network.

Another is allowing a single sign-on throughout the whole of the system, which is easy to set up and use. VPNs can also hasten the deployment of telecare and telemedicine systems, and offer increased interoperability.

"The European IP VPN services market is highly competitive at the moment," says Liu. "Service providers face many big challenges, which have forced them to align service strategies accordingly."

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