Cloud is more than a delivery and business model

Uma Murty

With new healthcare reforms, significant strides in the adoption and maturity of technology have occurred in the healthcare industry in the past four years.  This is evidenced by the growth in electronic health records, the digitization and sharing of patient images, the rise in Healthcare Information Exchanges, and more recently Population Health Management systems.  This growth is fueled by the promise that technology will improve efficiency, reduce cost and care variability, and ultimately enhance quality of patient care.

The technology adoption comes with huge capital and operational expenditure costs that require significant IT resources to manage and maintain the technology. The reality is that the healthcare providers are also constantly trying to reduce the total cost of ownership associated with the technology while improving outcomes.  Cloud technology often gets mentioned in this context as an attractive option to address these needs.  Cloud technology enables healthcare providers to share risk with the technology solution providers through a consumption based business model and infrastructure management services.  This operationalizes the cost and frees up healthcare IT staff from managing expensive and complex IT infrastructure.  Good examples of this in the US are revenue cycle management, patient billing, payroll, and claims management.  In imaging, cloud technology is used to archive huge data sets and share images.  It is clear that cloud is both a business and deployment model, but is that all?

As the healthcare industry adopts more cloud services, we see new emerging ecosystems forming with more innovative services.  Here are just some examples and emerging application services which illustrate how cloud technology is contributing to growth and innovation in healthcare:

  • Today’s patients and caregivers are more technically savvy than ever before.  Patients and caregivers are more proactive in understanding their care choices to manage their out-of-pocket expenses and to improve healthcare options.  We download apps to track our exercise routine, medication or even mental health status. Healthcare providers today are required to share and communicate with us, sharing all the relevant information, such as images, lab results, nutrition information, and billing information.  Cloud technology is an efficient way to render patient portals to get access to this information in a secure, scalable, and cost-effective manner.
  • Clinician collaboration is now more cost-effectively enabled via cloud technology, whether it is to simply exchange patient Images and health records in a trauma situation; or to seek second opinion to discuss diagnosis and treatment plans.  Cloud technology is enabling more collaboration with enhanced access and it is growing. Furthermore, given the rise in aging population, chronic care conditions and shortage of physicians, there will be an even greater need to collaborate and gain access to scarce expert resources.
  • Cloud technology can help reduce cost of care for chronic healthcare conditions by enabling healthcare providers to place remote diagnostic monitoring devices in patient homes and connect these devices to cloud platforms to monitor and track patient vitals remotely.  These remote management services can be further enhanced with the use of video and interactive chat services, which enable clinicians to engage with patients and care givers in a meaningful manner.  Adoption of these solutions has the potential to enhance the patient experience.
  • Big data and analytics is another important emerging area in healthcare given the high volume of clinical and non-clinical data available.  Petabytes of data exists in the cloud archive.  There are many possibilities in how this data can be harnessed and analyzed to help improve diagnostic outcomes.  The ability to access this data and utilize analytics tools can provide predictive insights to improve diagnostic outcomes.

Adoption of cloud technology in healthcare creates new opportunities and services that can go beyond delivering software as a service business model. Cloud-based solutions address key attributes such as elasticity, availability, scalability, on-demand self-service and agility that can be leveraged beyond traditional software business models with collaborative workflows, better access to data, intelligence through analytics, and better patient-care. A cloud-based service model gives the ability to extend software delivery models by combining knowledge with operations to drive efficiencies across the ecosystem as part of the healthcare network.

Any descriptions of future functionality reflect current product direction are for informational purposes only and do not constitute a commitment to provide specific functionality. Timing and availability are subject to change and applicable regulatory approvals.

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