Guest Column | October 2, 2019

5 Ways Cloud Computing Is Impacting Healthcare

By Vinati Kamani, Arkenea

The Value Of the Cloud

There has been a massive shift in the generation, consumption, storage, and sharing of healthcare data. From conventional storage to digitalization of healthcare data, the healthcare industry has sure come a long way in optimizing its data management practices.

For an industry that has historically lagged behind its contemporaries, the healthcare segment is leading on cloud adoption. According to the West Monroe Partner’s report, 35 percent of healthcare organizations surveyed held more than 50 percent of data or infrastructure in the cloud. Healthcare thus proved to be farthest along with cloud adoption when compared to other industries.

The widespread adoption of cloud computing in healthcare goes far beyond just storing data on cloud architecture. Healthcare providers are now leveraging this technology to gain efficiencies, optimize workflows, lower the costs associated with healthcare delivery and offer personalization in care plans to improve outcomes.

How Cloud Computing Is Transforming The Healthcare Industry

Moving over to the cloud has two-fold benefits. It has proven to be advantageous for both healthcare providers as well as the patients. On the business side, Cloud computing has proven beneficial for cutting down operational expenses while allowing providers to deliver high-quality, personalized care.

The patients, who are growing accustomed to instantaneous delivery of services, get to avail the same promptness from the health sector as well. Cloud also amps up patient engagement with their own health plans by giving them access to their own healthcare data, thus resulting in improved patient outcomes.

The democratization of healthcare data and its remote accessibility free up providers as well as patients and breaks down location barriers restricting access to healthcare.

Here are the ways cloud consulting is impacting healthcare.

1. Lowering Of Costs

The basic premise of cloud computing is on-demand availability of computer resources like data storage and computing power. Hospitals and healthcare providers are freed from the need to purchase the hardware and servers outrightly. There are no up-front charges associated with cloud storage of data. You only pay for the resources you actually use which results in massive cost savings.

Cloud computing also provides the optimum ergonomic environment for scaling which is a desirable quality in the current times. With patient data flowing in not just from the records in the form of EMRs but also through the plethora of healthcare apps and health wearables, a cloud-based environment proves to be perfect for scaling and undergoing capacitive overhaul while keeping the costs in check.

2. Ease Of Interoperability

Interoperability aims at establishing data integrations throughout the healthcare system, irrespective of the point of origin or storage. As a result of interoperability fueled by cloud adoption, patient data is readily available for distribution and gaining insights to facilitate healthcare planning and delivery.

Cloud computing allows healthcare providers to gain easy access to the patient data collated from numerous sources, share it with the important stakeholders and give out timely prescriptions and treatment protocols. It also diminishes the distance between the specialists allowing them to review cases and give their opinions irrespective of the geographical limitations.

Having the patient’s data in the cloud also promotes interoperability among the various segments of the healthcare industry- pharmaceuticals, insurance, and payments. This allows for a seamless transfer of data between the different stakeholders thus accelerating healthcare delivery and introducing efficiency in the process.

3. Access To High Powered Analytics

Healthcare data, both structured as well as unstructured, is a huge asset. Relevant patient data from different sources can be collated and computed in the cloud. The application of Big Data analytics and artificial intelligence algorithms on the cloud-stored patient data can power up medical research. With the advanced computing power of the cloud, processing of large datasets becomes more feasible.

Performing analytics on patient data also can pave the way for formulating more personalized care plans for patients on an individual level. It also ensures that all the pertinent patient details are on record and nothing gets missed out when prescribing treatments. Cloud-based data analysis comes in handy when extracting relevant patient information.

4. Patient’s Ownership Of Data

Cloud computing democratizes data and gives patients control over their own health. It boosts patient participation in decisions pertaining to their own health and leads to informed decision making by acting as a tool for patient education and engagement.

Patient records and medical images can be easily archived and retrieved when storing data on the cloud. While cloud security remains a concern, the reliability of cloud for data storage is definitely higher. Data redundancy is reduced with an increase in system uptime. Since the backups are automated and there isn’t a single touchpoint where the data is stored, recovery of data becomes much simpler.

5. Telemedicine Capabilities

Remote accessibility of data is possibly the biggest advantages that cloud storage of data offers. The combination of cloud computing with healthcare has the potential to improve a number of healthcare-related functions such as telemedicine, post-hospitalization care plans, and virtual medication adherence. It also improves access to healthcare services through telehealth.

Telemedicine apps add the element of convenience to healthcare delivery while upgrading the patient experience. Cloud-based telehealth systems and applications allow easy sharing of healthcare data, improve accessibility and provide healthcare coverage to the patients during the preventative, treatment as well as the recovery phase.

Barriers To Adoption Of Cloud Computing In Healthcare

1. Security Concerns

The biggest setback to cloud adoption in healthcare is the possible security risk associated with it. Patient data is inherently sensitive in nature and cloud-hosted healthcare data needs to be safeguarded against external threats.

Encryption of data, use of security keys for access and using blockchain for securing data are some of the ways healthcare organizations can ensure the security of sensitive patient data stored in the cloud.

2. Compliance To Security Norms

Healthcare data and related applications need to comply with a number of data regulation laws like HIPAA, HITECH, and GDPR. This extends to cloud-hosted data as well. Ensuring compliance of the cloud-hosted data is something that healthcare providers need to look out for when moving over to the cloud.

3. System Downtimes

While the cloud offers more reliability, occasional downtimes are a reality. Having contingency planning done beforehand and preparedness for a possible failure lets you overcome any downtime if it occurs. Designing for failure is advocated as a best practice while building cloud applications.

Closing Words

Cloud computing still has a long way to go in the healthcare sector. It’s combination with rapidly evolving technologies like Big Data analytics, artificial intelligence and internet of medical things improves efficiencies and opens up multiple avenues of streamlining healthcare delivery. It increases resource availability, boosts interoperability while lowering the costs. With so many benefits and planning in place to overcome the barriers, there is no reason to not go the cloud way!

About The Author

Dr Vinati Kamani writes about emerging technology and its application across industries for Arkenea. She is an avid reader and self proclaimed bibliophile. When Vinati is not at her desk penning down articles or reading up on the recent trends, she can be found travelling to remote places and soaking up different cultural experiences.