Adoption of cloud technology in health care lags behind other industries. Reluctance among IT staff is no surprise — 2015 saw a marked upswing in the number of network data breaches, while the roll out of electronic health records (EHRs) brings challenges with compliance and security. As noted by Forbes, however, cloud is making headway: By 2020 the cloud health care market will be worth close to $9.5 billion. Bottom line? Despite the challenges, there’s a positive prognosis for cloud computing in health enterprises and small clinics alike. Here are four key impacts:
Doctors and health-support staff are trained to make difficult decisions about underlying causes and courses of treatment on a day-to-day basis, often with very little in the way of supporting information — in effect, they’re forced to rely on a combination of past experience and acquired knowledge to determine the best course of action. According to MBA Healthcare Management, however, cloud technology offers the chance to change this workflow. Consider IBM’s Watson supercomputer, now busily poring over medical textbooks and current research to offer a cloud-based second or third opinion that can help doctors identify rare diseases or double-check their gut reaction. While not ready for public release quite yet, the program holds promise for cooperative diagnosis.
Secure Data Agreements
Four years ago, big cloud providers and health organizations couldn’t see eye to eye, and health care IT pros were stuck in the middle. Providers and insurers needed companies like Amazon and Microsoft to sign business associate agreements (BAA), which under The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act made these companies responsible for secure data handling and use, as mandated by government agencies in addition to undergoing regular audits. Not surprisingly, cloud companies refused. However, the growth of cloud startups combined with the massive value of health care markets — approximately 17 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product — compelled significant change. Now, a number of cloud providers carry the government stamp of approval and have committed to secure handling of personal health care information (PHI).
Reduced Reaction Time
Many doctors’ offices still rely on out-of-date, closed computer systems that require medical professionals to wade through a complicated series of logins and passwords to access a system that doesn’t always work as advertised. Aside from the wasted time for doctor and patient, this lack of reliable access means a constant headache for IT pros as legacy systems sputter and begin to fail.
Always-connected, cloud-based systems, meanwhile, offer the benefit of single sign on (SSO) protection that grants medical personnel access to the most up-to-date version of virtually any needed record. What’s more, it’s possible to access this data over secure mobile devices. This means that doctors are no longer bound to ancient desktops or even local clinics — they can diagnose and treat anytime, anywhere, in turn reducing the lag between assessment and effective action.
Improved Information Handling
According to betanews, health agencies also gain the benefit of better information handling in the cloud. For example, cloud-based VoIP systems can make and receive calls on any device, anywhere, letting providers easily track phone calls and ensure data received is handled without delay. Need-based scaling, meanwhile, makes VoIP solutions viable for small clinics, enterprises and midsize providers, alike. Better information handling also comes through collaboration — using an approved cloud service lets health care agencies securely share critical data; rather than waiting for responses to email, faxes or even physical letters companies can easily access what they need, when they need it, to deliver improved patient outcomes.
Cloud computing adoption in health care is hitting its stride; cooperation, security, time to diagnosis and information handling all benefit from improved cloud access.