The healthcare industry once was one of the slowest fields to adopt new technologies. This has to do with the fears around security and the privacy of patient data. Healthcare companies always preferred to keep data onsite hiding behind firewalls as opposed to maintaining it on something as intangible as the cloud.
Healthcare IT had stayed away from the cloud due to the following challenges.
1. Privacy and security challenges
Apart from the common issues relating to security and privacy associated with cloud, the healthcare industry is governed by social and government bodies such HIPAA, and therefore they are obligated to comply with certain stipulated rules and regulations surrounding the security of patient data.
2. Service reliability and viability
Cloud is essentially a third party service. The reality is that all cloud ecosystems and enterprise infrastructures would be interrupted to some degree at some point in time. Mission critical healthcare IT applications must meet very high performance standards, availability standards, and reliability standards. This challenge is critical to the industry.
3. Transition and portability of data
Another barrier that impacted some healthcare organizations’ willingness to adopt cloud computing was the concern regarding the ability to transition to another cloud vendor or back to the healthcare organization without disrupting operations or introducing conflicting claims to the data.
Cloud Adoption in Healthcare Today
The need for information to follow the patients wherever they go has been identified by multiple government agencies. Hence, the healthcare sector today is actively adopting cloud computing to record and store patient information. The platform of an electronic health information exchange (HIE) has been created to fulfill this requirement. The office of the department of health and human services has led the process of establishing the essential building blocks that will support HIEs. Key stakeholders of these HIEs include doctors, nurses, hospitals, provider offices, clinics, insurance companies, reporting agencies, pharmacies, and, most importantly, the patients themselves.
2014 HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey revealed that 83% of healthcare organizations have already adopted cloud computing. 67% of those are utilizing cloud through SaaS-based applications while 15.3% running on an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).Top three reasons why healthcare adopted cloud;
- Less cost
- Rapid deployment
- Lack of internal expertise
Patient Portal – Industry’s New Trend
The patient portal takes a patient-centered approach in creating a more comprehensive picture of health history and needs of the patients. It is an online community for the patients to access their information 24/7 outside of the hospital or the doctor’s office. By encouraging participation in electronic health exchanges, the office of the national coordinator expects to see a re-design of the health system process resulting in highly efficient and effective care delivery. This will decrease cost, increase quality, and improve patient satisfaction. Patient care will be driven by evidence-based decisions, made at the point of care, and delivered through an integrated workflow process.
Benefits of Patient Portal;
- Become engaged and involved in one’s own health at all levels in both prevention and treatment
- Access health information anytime and from any place
- Build medical history
- Interact with physician, health care providers and even pharmacists through electronic messaging
- Schedule and modify appointments within reasonable time frame
- Review results of test and procedures
- Share updated health care resources
The following information can be stored and shared through the patient portal maintained on the cloud;
- History of illness
- Surgery including events surrounding the surgery
- Allergies to food or drugs
Other Areas of Cloud Use
Cloud computing offers significant advantages to the healthcare sector. Doctors, hospitals, and clinics gain quick access to computing and large storage facilities which are not provided in the traditional settings. From healthcare providers to pharmacists, they all have something to gain from moving towards the cloud. The implementations of cloud are infinite.
- Clinical research – Improvement in research and drug development.
- Electronic medical record (EMR) – EMR is a digital version of patient’s comprehensive medical history used by providers for diagnosis and treatment. EMR allows the patient to take their medical history, even when they change doctors or relocate to a different state.
- Collaborated solution – Patient portal and other cloud-based solutions help accelerate collaborative decision-making on appropriate treatments. For example, electronic documentation from the patient’s primary care physician, consulting physicians, hospitals, and ambulatory centers can be automatically transmitted electronically to the patient portal.
- Telemedicine – Telemedicine–also known as telehealth or sometimes as e-health–is an old practice that allows health professionals to diagnose and treat patients remotely via telephone and telecommunications technology. The modern-day telemedicine takes advantage of cloud storage. Cloud-based solutions help healthcare professionals to meet patients in real-time using face-to-face video-conferencing and mobile apps.
- Big data analytics – Healthcare organizations are in an early stage in leveraging big data technology to capture structured and unstructured medical data to get a complete view of patient care. One of the earliest uses of big data analytics in healthcare industry is in an area of predictive analytics–insights which help in making the right decisions at the right time for the patients.
The majority of healthcare organizations today have already taken major leap forward to adopt cloud computing. Due to the shift of the industry’s focus to become more patient-centric, healthcare realized cloud is the answer to collaborative partnerships and fast access to patient information. Software as a Service (SaaS) is the most attractive cloud model for healthcare due to its low cost, rapid deployment, high scalability, and minimum requirements of special expertise of healthcare staff.