How healthcare providers use cloud computing to cut costs, deliver better care
At Chicago's sprawling Rush University Medical Center, technology is as ubiquitous as the doctors, nurses and patients who fill the corridors. Amid the army of life-saving machines is an invisible force vital to the hospital's operations: cloud computing. It's used to run critical applications, cull, analyze and extract important information from piles of unstructured data, including physician and lab notes (typed and handwritten) via the natural language processing capabilities of machine learning. Radiologist readings are cloud-analyzed, too.
"Scaling on premises was not an easy task," says Jawad Khan, Rush's director of Knowledge Management and Data Sciences. "It's not that easy to add five or seven nodes to process a lot of notes. So that application was fairly straightforward."
By way of example, Khan explains, a patient might come in complaining of a cough, chest pains and a headache. The doctor would then use his or her knowledge to diagnose what's wrong and record all the pertinent details. Even so, only the primary diagnosis — maybe a secondary or tertiary one — would show up on the patient's chart. That's where cloud-based data analysis comes in handy, extracting information that would otherwise remain hidden.
Applications of Cloud Computing in Healthcare
How Rapid Adoption of the Cloud Is Enhancing Patient Care & Lowering Costs
While cloud skeptics remain, many citing privacy concerns in light of the ultra-sensitive information they're reluctant to share with an outside vendor, the cloud's many advantages and potential advantages are hard to ignore — hence the escalating adoption rate.
As in lots of other industries, the days of internal IT staffs at hospitals and other healthcare institutions are waning as operations migrate to cloud-based software and servers. Proponents of the shift (and there are many) say that means several things, including lower costs and the ability to speed up analysis of important care components, such as clinical notes — all of which, ideally, lead to better care.
Besides the fact that data is processed much more quickly and payroll shrinks considerably in the absence of large in-house IT crews, there are no on-site servers to wipe out or seriously compromise in the case of natural disasters or malicious cyber attacks. Automated scalability is key, too.
“If you’ve got an application that’s growing exponentially like EHRs (Electronic Health Records) tend to do, if you want to increase the scale and increase your capacity… it’s a lot easier to do in a cloud-based environment," Bob Krohn, partner and healthcare practice lead at global research and advisory firm ISG, told Healthcare Dive.
Perhaps best of all, doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers have easy access to detailed patient data from different sources, which eliminates the need for massive networks and complex security protocols. Consequently, patients more quickly and accurately get the information, medications and therapies they need. That's the goal, anyway.
According to information gathered by the healthcare arm of Tokyo-based Renesas Electronics Corporation, the marriage of cloud computing and healthcare has huge potential to improve a host of healthcare-related functions such as telehealth and virtual care, medication adherence, drug anti-theft and counterfeiting measures, resource inefficiency (medical staff, equipment, etc.), personal data privacy and the uniformity of medical records. It's no wonder, then, that more cloud companies are vying for a piece of the healthcare pie.
The Cloud Computing Healthcare Market
A Snapshot of the Companies Driving a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry
It's getting quite cloudy in the healthcare sector, technologically speaking.
Cloud computing in healthcare is growing so fast that estimates put its global market value at nearly $10 billion by 2020 and $45 billion by 2023. A related statistic, from Black Book Market Research, pegged healthcare cloud adoption at a robust 74 percent. And per a recent story in Global Health magazine, 2019 is shaping up to be the cloud's biggest year ever across the healthcare spectrum.
Here's a quick look at several companies helping hospitals and other health-related organizations streamline operations and improve patient care through the cloud.
Real-time Clinical Data
NetApp is a hybrid cloud data services company. Its management platform delivers data in real time to help make clinical operations faster and more efficient through reduced EHR latency, quicker backup and restoration, easier accommodation of data/workload expansion and the streamlining of data management.
Healthcare IT Services
Medsphere offers a variety of cloud-based solutions for healthcare institutions. It’s electronic health record platform provides services to multiple sectors, including clinical, financial, accounting, nursing and many others. Employing Microsoft’s secure Azure® cloud platform, the company also helps providers deal with scheduling, registration, medical records, billing, claims and more.
Designed to play well with other public clouds, ClearDATA’s HIPAA-compliant cloud protects sensitive patient data via compliance safeguards, devops automation and healthcare expertise. The platform also powers critical applications and automatically detects changes in cloud accounts so the company can quickly respond to those changes in a variety of ways.
Nintex eliminates paper documents, streamlines manual processes and drags important data out of its silos, consequently enhancing the overall patient experience. The company provides its automation services to an array of healthcare industry professionals, from doctors and nurses to the makers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
Teamwork through Technology
Medable’s medical-grade platform facilitates direct-to-patient healthcare by supporting clinical applications and storing personal health information for clinical providers and researchers. In addition, the platform can be used by developers to expand or create apps for mobile, tablet and desktop.
Practice Management and EHR Software
Carecloud’s open platform helps healthcare providers improve their efficiency and effectiveness. It also lets them connect directly with patients to provide better care. Applications include revenue cycle management, practice management, electronic health records, patient experience, mobile app, healthcare analytics and more.
Managing Patient Care, Not Patient Data
"Cloud adoption is going to increase very rapidly," Khan says. "One reason is because all the big players like Microsoft, Google and Amazon have very quickly come to the realization that not many hospitals will be able to continue to work with on-premises data centers. And they're certifying their data centers for HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) and safe harbor compliance controls. If we are able to get assurances from our partners that they're high-tech and HIPAA-certified, that makes our job easier. We don't have to manage infrastructure. And we don't have to have an extensive security program in place to be able to manage it."
After all, Khan adds, Rush isn't in the business of data management.
"Our core business is providing patient care."
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