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The Impact of the Cloud in Healthcare, Today and Tomorrow

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In a world of increasingly connected patients and devices, the global healthcare and life sciences community has a renewed – and some would say sharpened – focus on improving patient engagement and health outcomes. As a result, many are exploring how an enterprise health cloud can support these efforts.

What are they looking for? Health cloud platforms that are purpose-built for healthcare, flexible to work across the health ecosystem, and can help organizations innovate while meeting strict security and compliance requirements.

What Makes a “Purpose-Built” Health Cloud?

A new report from Forrester about cloud computing in health notes that enterprise health clouds help healthcare organizations become agile businesses. A cloud can allow them to both “drive patient insights with advanced analytics,” and to “engage customers with applications designed specifically for their needs.”

This is certainly true, and IBM is honored to be named a Leader in the report. But there are other critical requirements that must be at the foundation of a cloud solution that is truly built for healthcare.

While most cloud platforms available today are horizontal, designed to meet the needs of any industry, IBM believes that a health cloud model best suited to drive innovation must also be:

  • Secure end-to-end, providing an environment of trust
  • Purpose-built for the needs of healthcare and life sciences organizations, including data governance, auditability, and interfaces for health data standards and systems
  • Compliant with relevant international privacy standards
  • Built in a quality management system (QMS), for organizations needing proof that the cloud meets stringent regulatory controls
  • Able to derive actionable insights from clinical, payer, provider, research, and other data sets
  • Designed to meet the evolving needs of the full healthcare ecosystem and value chain

In an increasingly complex and fragmented industry, basic security imperatives are not sufficient. The stakes are higher for sensitive health data, so the purpose-built cloud needs to go beyond basic HIPAA enablement.

Healthcare organizations and IT decision-makers also need targeted health data services at the core of their health cloud platforms. AI and analytics are required to both develop breakthrough applications, and deliver them to the deep specifications required to improve care. Paired with big health data, and the power of AI and cognitive computing, a purpose-built health cloud must offer a place to truly innovate.

For example, Medtronic is piloting a cognitive application that uses information from Medtronic diabetes devices to provide individualized guidance in understanding and helping manage elements of daily diabetes decisions. As the Sugar.IQ with Watson application uncovers behaviors associated with glucose patterns, personalized messages will be delivered in real time to help people with diabetes understand how specific actions and habits affect their glucose levels.

Further, to truly transform care, enterprise health cloud solutions must be nimble and able to bridge the health value chain so life sciences companies can accelerate collaborative models and extend past drug discovery to enabling better patient care; providers can become more adept at both managing patient populations and engaging them in their care; and data scientists become armed with the information they need to unlock insights, spur innovation and drive targeted action with stakeholders across the health ecosystem.

As we evolve the role of cloud computing in healthcare in support of value-based care there is much to test and learn. At IBM, we’re honored to be recognized by Forrester and others for what we consider to be our pioneering work with healthcare leaders around the world, and eager to hear your take on the role of cloud computing in transforming healthcare.

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