By Rahul Varshneya, founder and president, Arkenea.
Cloud computing has become the new watchword for healthcare organizations across the globe. The adoption of cloud technology has been escalating at a frenetic pace and, as recent research suggests, the global market for cloud technologies in the industry is expected to reach $35 billion by 2020.
The underlying reason behind the recent hype in this technology is simple though. If healthcare institutions were plainly service providers before, today, they’re true technology organizations that now depend on their IT departments for administrative, clinical, and financial purposes. And that’s not all. As new payment models are added to the equation and patient expectations change, technology has become vital to drive efficiency and improve patient care.
In this article, we’ll be looking at a few things that have been made possible in healthcare due to the rapid adoption of cloud technology.
1) Reduced Costs of Data Storage
On-premises healthcare data centers not only demand an investment in hardware ahead of time, but they also come with ongoing costs of maintaining physical spaces, servers, and cooling solutions among many other things.
“Cloud solutions are very beneficial from the standpoint that as you migrate data, you don’t need to maintain your own datasets which can be costly and expensive,” explains Forward Health Group CTO Jeff Thomas. “Maintaining datasets on-site can also be expensive in that it takes up real estate which can sometimes be used for something else.”
By managing the structure, harmonious functioning and maintenance of cloud storage services, cloud computing vendors can significantly aid organizations in lowering their data storage costs and enable them to concentrate their efforts on caring for their patients.
Healthcare organizations can also leverage custom cloud EMR or EHR software to fit the needs of their specific practice. That way, they get exactly what they’re looking for without them having to dig a hole in their pockets.
2) Robust Data Security
There are going to be no two opinions when it comes to the fact that healthcare organizations need augmented security protocols that safeguard sensitive patient data. Since medical records are at an ever-increasing risk of potential cyber attacks, a recent report states that healthcare organizations are rapidly moving toward hybrid cloud solutions — which offer the benefits of both public and private cloud — to achieve optimum flexibility and the ease to move applications between private and public platforms.
“As a healthcare organization, we’re responsible for managing critical clinical and IT applications such as EHR and PACS as well as making sure we have an infrastructure that is secure and scalable to support changing needs such as hybrid cloud-based disaster recovery,” Dave Lehr, CIO of Anne Arundel Medical Center, shares in a Nutanix press release. “We knew that the right hyperconverged infrastructure would allow us to manage these workloads on a single, cost-effective solution.”
Today, a number of cloud platform services are also compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Opting for a compliant cloud provider can further ensure that your data remains protected and adheres to HIPAA Rules at all times to avoid any hefty penalties and violations of its policies.
3) Enhanced Collaboration
The rapid adoption of collaboration tools of the likes of enterprise messaging and video conferencing holds the potential to leave a positive influence on healthcare teams and leadership. The cloud-based software behind these tools helps ameliorate the clinician workflow for enhanced patient care, irrespective of how far away a provider may be located.
“Moving to the cloud for our communications was the best decision we’ve made, as we’re now connected with our patients and colleagues whether we are in the office, at home or traveling overseas,” Dr. Ravi Patel, the founder of the Comprehensive Blood & Cancer Center, said in a RingCentral press release.
Today, with the advancements happening in cloud technology, the data collected from remote patient monitoring devices can also be uploaded to the user’s private centralized cloud or a specific medical cloud, which keeps a record of all the monitored data and can be retrieved for analysis by the medical personnel.
4) Efficient and Integrated Patient Care
The implementation of cloud storage for electronic health records (EHRs) has helped transform collective patient care, making it straightforward and less complicated for clinicians to retrieve patient information.
Web-based software also makes it easier for physicians, staff members and patients to access patient portals and employ mobile health applications to receive important health information, such as lab results, from any location.
“With EHRs, every provider can have the same accurate and up-to-date information about a patient,” the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology states on its website. “Better coordination can lead to better quality of care and improved patient outcomes.”
5) Improved Medical Research
Just how cloud computing allows healthcare organizations to make the most out of their data, digitizing healthcare information through cloud-based data storage can also benefit medical researchers greatly.
One excellent example of this is UCLA Health which is utilizing Microsoft Azure cloud services to do just that. The academic medical center has been exploiting its healthcare data for precision medicine and to further medical research for a brief time period now.
“By connecting health data and systems in the cloud in an interoperable way, we’re excited we can help advance healthcare data for more efficient and personalized care,” says Peter Lee, corporate vice president at Microsoft Healthcare.
What the Future Holds
All in all, cloud computing has transformed the world of healthcare in countless ways. It may be happening too slowly for some, but eventually the need for accurate, fast data will help encourage a healthcare industry that seems like a truly modern innovation. The cloud has the potential to help physicians deliver better care to more patients, all at a lesser cost.
For now, it looks like the future of healthcare is in the cloud!