As health organizations transform how they serve their patients and partners, cloud computing provides a way to reduce costs, simplify management, and improve services in a safe and secure manner.
As they seek ways to optimize their technology foundation to help control costs and improve access to information, tools, and resources, health and life science organizations, both public and private, are exploring the promise of cloud computing services. Combining security and reliability with a flexible range of deployment options, cloud computing offers benefits that can make it a compelling choice for your organization.
In 2011, 4 percent of the health care industry used cloud computing, but that number will jump to 20.5 percent a year, according a report by MarketsandMarkets. The company studied the health care IT cloud market for the period 2012-2017. In the health care cloud market, no cloud provider holds more than a 5 percent share, according to the report. Health care cloud vendors include Agfa Healthcare, CareCloud, Dell, GE Healthcare and Merge Healthcare.
MarketsandMarkets divided the health care industry into clinical and nonclinical cloud use. Clinical applications consist of EHRs, physician order entry and software for imaging and pharmacy use, while nonclinical applications include revenue cycle management, patient billing and claims management.
Cloud services available to health and life science organizations today extend well beyond email and communications, meetings and collaboration. They encompass a broad range of possibilities that can help you meet your organizational and information and communications technology (ICT) goals: online health and wellness tools, application development, data and image storage and sharing, and PC management and security.
The cloud is all about rapid innovation
Cloud-based services can upgrade and improve their services rapidly, cheaply, and with minimal or no interruption to service. Traditionally, a healthcare provider would see hassles in installing and implementing new software, rather than simply having to update to a new major release every two or so years. The cloud is all about rapid innovation. Allowing the cloud provider to continually improve the data and computing power frees up the local IT staff for “value-added tasks,” such as infrastructure maintenance and administration.
Every great mobile app is backed up by some cloud infrastructure. The two trends of cloud computing and mobile health are inextricably linked: All behind the scenes is the workhorse that powers the app. Mobile uses a lot of backend cloud services. By storing all of its data and computing power in the cloud, a healthcare provider enables staff to have access to information anywhere it wants to make it available. For large institutions, or partnered organizations, that data may be needed in two places at once and can be synchronized and shared in real time. Transitioning to a cloud service enables greater speed and access for healthcare providers, as well as patients. The next wave is an app someone can get, that someone can ﬁll out and collect data for their healthcare provider. It’s your device with an app that’s approved and certiﬁed and can interact with your healthcare provider.
EMRs – A Good Start
Most health care IT infrastructures need a massive upgrade to more easily capture and share information, and to make their organizations more intelligent, and the data manage more actionable. Several EMR vendors are offering their solutions as a cloud-based offering, providing an alternative approach to help hospitals better manage the otherwise massive capital IT investments that would need to be made to support EMR implementations.
However, just as across other industries, there is an ongoing debate within health care as to the viability of cloud-based solutions given the care needed for patient privacy and sensitive personal information. In considering cloud computing for health care organizations, the following must be considered:
Systems must be adaptable to various departmental needs and organizational sizes. Architectures must encourage a more open sharing of information and data sources. Capital budgets are tight and any technology refresh cannot overburden the already brittle budgetary environments. Scalability is a must as more patients enter the system and more data becomes digitized. Portability is needed as doctors and patients would benefit from the ability to remotely access systems and data. Security and data protection are paramount.
Much has already been written about cloud computing’s potential and demonstrated successes at helping enterprise IT infrastructures adapt and transform into more efficient and flexible environments. But where does cloud computing fit within health care?
General IT cloud computing environments may not be suitable for many health care applications. As the notion of private cloud computing is catching on, health care must go one step further – the formation of hCloud environments that specifically address the security and availability requirements for health care.
Just as cloud computing offers multiple benefits for enterprise computing environments, hCloud provides an infrastructure that allows hospitals, medical practices, insurance companies, and research facilities to tap improved computing resources at lower initial capital outlays, thanks to the on-demand nature of cloud computing. Additionally, hCloud environments will lower the barriers for innovation and modernization of HIT systems and applications.
Healthcare Cloud Revolution
Hospitals and physicians are starting to see cloud-based medical records and medical image archiving services (i.e., “open” and “portable”) coming on line from the likes of HP, GE, and Iron Mountain. The objective is to offload a burdensome task from hospital IT departments and allow them to focus on supporting other imperatives such as EMR adoption and improved clinical support systems.
Early successes of cloud-based physician collaboration solutions such as remote video conference physician visits are being trialed. Extending such offerings to a mobile environment for rural telehealth or disaster response is becoming more real with broader wireless broadband and smartphone adoption.