Cloud computing has largely been accepted in various sectors including financial services, manufacturing & IT/ITES businesses and virtual business sphere. The time is ripe for it to take a giant leap in the healthcare sector. Healthcare applications have largely remained scattered and disintegrated. It has been challenging for doctors and hospitals in the past to have a comprehensive look at the patient’s profile.
But now cloud-based applications are noticing a surge across the healthcare industry changing the very definition of healthcare. The effort is skewed to be more patient-centric and data-driven. Instead of just focusing on healthcare employees, the cloud is rapidly being adopted in other sectors like operating models, service offerings, collaborative capabilities and end-user services.
Electronic Health Record based on cloud has become immensely popular among US doctors and physicians. This systematic collection of patient’s information can be easily shared across the cloud networks enabling smooth access to relevant patient data.
Why is it so popular?
83% of IT healthcare organizations in the US are using cloud-based services as per the 2014 HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey. The common reasons for adoption are to counter higher maintenance costs, increase speed of deployment and meet staffing challenges. Microsoft, Qualcomm Life, Philips, Verizon and AT&T have already launched cloud-based vertical solutions aimed at the healthcare sector.
It clearly shows the extent of scope in implementing cloud-based services across the world. Thus, the cloud computing presents ample opportunities for healthcare sector and it is poised to bring a wave of IT innovation. The article below will discuss the potential reforms in the sector using cloud computing.
Exploring the potential for reforms in healthcare sector
Healthcare sector has often lacked investment, especially, in the developing economies, which made infrastructural reforms difficult for the Government. The number of diseases, the patient overload and the loads of data is getting multifold. In such a scenario, management and development becomes extremely challenging.
The cloud-based model has entailed healthcare businesses to think innovatively. Their business model has encountered a drastic shift from traditional business models. For instance, the healthcare equipment manufacturers need to develop devices that can accommodate cloud technology, get inter-connected and make information sharing an effortless task along the value chain.
Cloud service providers need to be capable of ensuring convergence between clouds, allow data mobility and data analysis in a cost-effective manner. Instead of focusing on B2B model, the alignment needs to be more towards B2C model for targeting end-users through personalization.
The changes in US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Health Information Technology for Economic Clinic Health Act (HITECH) have made it mandatory for healthcare service providers to create more control over data and interaction between different aspects of healthcare. The adoption of EHR systems has been primarily driven by Government incentive schemes to deploy IT in healthcare. Various EHR applications and technologies are moving to S-a-a-S based delivery model to manage hoards of data.
The EHR systems are moving towards creating a global database containing the entire information about the patients including medical history, scan images, blood type, allergy etc. Such database will be accessible from every corner of the world through a secured authentication by the patient.
The deluge of internet-connected devices in the market including smartphones, tablets, wearable gadgets and more have empowered the healthcare sector with an ability to rapidly share medical information on the cloud platforms. As a result, cloud technology is going to have a transformative effect on the way personal healthcare is delivered. The critical health information is not limited to the local hospital but can be shared with anyone who needs it instantly.
It is of immense help to the patients as pharmacists can view patients’ allergies before issuing a prescription, paramedics can check blood type during accidents and scanned results can be shared with specialists anywhere in the world to get quick recommendations supported by complete medical record of the patient.
Chronic ailments and treatments can be easily monitored & travelers can be diagnosed across the world by local doctors. Furthermore, it is the public cloud that provides a solution as compared to private clouds because public clouds will be under tighter scrutiny, ensuring strict compliance with the regulatory guidelines. Consequently, cloud service providers are engaging in higher levels of data protection and privacy to be successful.
Approximately 80% of ailments in US are chronic and as we know, chronic ailments need regular care; it increases the load on hospitals, doctors and nursing staff and ultimately results in a higher treatment cost. Cloud solutions will make it possible for doctors to monitor the patients sitting at the comfort of their home through cloud applications. Remote medical devices linked to cloud platforms will give predictive analysis.
There can be a setting, wherein, a doctor can set various parameters to monitor the health of multiple patients at the same time. If any parameter goes haywire, the doctor will be alerted to diagnose the problem. It will help to reduce home visits for the doctor and hospital visits for the patients, saving travel time & cost for both. It will also help to reduce carbon footprint in the economy of the country.
Moreover, blood, saliva, urine and feces can be tested at home & the results can be delivered through cloud. Healthcare providers have started using video communication links, wherein, doctors, patient and specialists can all be interlinked whenever necessary through centralized health call center. Therefore, this invigorating concept will enable preventive interventions and facilitation of healthier lifestyles for the general welfare of the society.
Cloud-enabled applications will generate a lot of data. Such data can be used by researchers and doctors to do analysis. Huge data sets can be subjected to predictive modeling and profiling. The data access needs to be given only to the authorized party maintaining patient anonymity. A person can be monitored through a series of home devices connected to internet like smart TVs, tablets, smartphones and healthcare gadgets to understand the lifestyle & wellness quotient.
Other patterns like eating habits, exercise regime and sleeping patterns can be used with other personal information to design a complete wellness profile of the person. This sophisticated set of information can be used for predictive analysis and pre-empt any disease likely to affect the patient. This personal analysis can be used to suggest healthy and specific food, track vitamins, cholesterol & calories in real-time.
Consequently, people can share this information on social media to help their friends adopt a healthier lifestyle. Insurance companies and healthcare providers can check social media profile of the patients before short listing them as their prospect. Healthcare providers will leverage cloud data and analytics to understand their customers’ wellness and offer better & customized services. They can learn a lot from retail and media industry, which is already using a blend of mobile, cloud and analytics to design their product & identify their target customers.
There is a massive gap between healthcare service delivery and the number of patients in the emerging markets. In the developing world and the underdeveloped countries, there are many places where even basic healthcare amenities are not available due to lack of infrastructure. Even if the infrastructure is available, there is dearth of qualified doctors.
Such challenges make correct diagnosis difficult. It is strange to see that mobile connectivity and internet usage in these areas is encountering a tremendous penetration, which happens to be excellent news for cloud-oriented healthcare providers. Such people can be targeted by connecting through their smartphones, to give better advice and care during pregnancy, chronic ailments and other diseases.
Healthcare service providers can use this information to specifically allocate their resources on a priority basis while catering to remote places. Doctors will have complete information handy about the patient before paying a physical visit. Government public health safety campaigns can be based upon data analyzed for a particular place. Thus, emerging markets will finally get their due of much longed-for healthcare services, utilizing the optimum resources available.
Global trend shows a unanimous acceptance of cloud-computing in the delivery of healthcare services. It is definitely going to change the health industry arena. There are challenges of data security and confidentiality issues but strict regulations & growing competition among the cloud service providers are helping to alleviate the trouble inflicted upon the healthcare providers and end-users by this recurring issue.