May 16, 2014 | Written by: Maamar Ferkoun
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While many industries benefit from the cloud, it has been especially the case for the healthcare industry, resulting in improved outcomes. Let’s take a look at some of the areas that are bringing significant benefits to the industry.
The exploitation of data by applying analytical methods such as statistics, predictive and quantitative models will provide better insights and achieve better outcomes. As far back as 2010, there is evidence of this: “93 percent of healthcare providers identified information explosion as the biggest factor anticipated to influence their organizations to a large extent over the next 5 years.”
Today, thanks to the regulatory compliance requirements for HIPAA, HITEC, PCI DSS and ISO 27001, the reluctance to adopt technology is starting being to be addressed and adoption is getting traction. Let’s bear in mind also that many of the security features required for data protection are addressed by the service providers, therefore relieving the healthcare organizations from tedious and complex security frameworks.
Another benefit is certainly mobility,whereby the cloud infrastructure is providing the backbone for medical personnel to access all sorts of information from any location and from a whole set of devices.
Collaboration with patients:
Patient records are now available anywhere, anytime for healthcare professionals, cutting the time for initial diagnosis and allowing physicians to access critical historical data and adjust their diagnosis based on informed decisions. A few examples of this new paradigm are illustrated in the following list:
• Physician Collaboration Solutions (PCS)
These solutions facilitate remote consultations and care continuity, allowing patients to be remotely visited. It also offers video conferencing, allowing physicians to visit patients in far out areas. This is also dubbed “tele-health solutions.”
• Health Information Exchange (HIE)
This allows for the healthcare information to be shared electronically across organizations within a region, community or hospital system. There are currently several cloud providers addressing this market, therefore taking upon themselves the role of collecting and distributing medical information from and among multiple organizations.
• Electronic Medical Records (EMR)
Here all information pertaining to a specific patient or a segment of the population is recorded and stored. The solution is designed to capture and provide a patient’s data at any time of the patient’s monitoring cycle, including the complete medical records and history.
The New York Times has published an interesting article illustrating the use of the cloud in healthcare. The organization is leveraging cloud and big data to manage the relationship with patients.
Collaboration among peers:
Technology can provide medical assistance to doctors in the field, be it in remote areas or in emergency relief operations through satellite communications. See the T4MOD project (Remote Assistance for Medical Teams Deployed Abroad), which could easily find its place in the cloud space.
This can also be exemplified by the recent announcement from IBM and the Boston Children Hospital, creating“the world’s first cloud-basedglobal education technology platform to transform how pediatric medicine is taught and practiced around the world. The initiative aims to improve the exchange of medical knowledge on the care of critically ill children, no matter where they live.”
As with everything, you have to be aware of a few shortcomings, the most significant of all being security and breach of confidentiality.
This recurrent theme acted as an inhibitor to healthcare embracing cloud technology. While many cloud providers are now claiming to be able to ensure compliance with HIPAA, the healthcare organizations do still have to figure out how exactly to address these requirements in a cloud environment.
The organizations now entrusting their cloud providers to host sensitive data and infrastructure do need to understand that they are actually handing over sensitive data to the cloud provider. This in turn will imply the need to explore how the cloud provider will indeed provide the level of security, the quality of service and the availability of the stored information.
While the healthcare industry is starting to embrace cloud computing, we can already foresee the tremendous potential of this technology leveraging on big data and analytics and all the applications that may come from its many uses. While there might be shortcomings, these are far outweighed by the benefits for both the industry and the patients. What do you think?