Few fields have felt the effects of the cloud as much as healthcare. We’ll examine how medicine’s changed – and continues to change – because of the cloud.
In hindsight, it should really come as no surprise that the healthcare industry was one of the most profoundly affected by the proliferation of cloud technology. After all, modern medicine is, at its heart, something of a collaborative, social field. Patients talk to doctors about their diagnoses, they’re cared for by medical professionals such as nurses, and suppliers work with offices and hospitals to provide medical technology and equipment.
In essence, it’s all about communication.
It also should not come as any great surprise that, concurrent with the development of the cloud, another change has been taking place in healthcare – one driven by social networking culture. Much as modern consumers expect a more personal, personable approach when dealing with brand advocates, modern medical patients expect that they’ll be treated with empathy, respect, and dignity. In short, they expect that the focus be on them – which is not at all unreasonable.
Together, these trends – the development of cloud computing and the change in patient demands – have brought about a shift at the core of how the healthcare industry operates.
“Healthcare is moving to a digital platform, becoming more patient-centered and data-driven,” writes Stephanie Ocano of Healthcare Global. “Large international players such as Microsoft, Qualcomm Life, Philips, Verizon, and AT&T have launched cloud-based vertical solutions aimed at the healthcare sector, and the global trend is that cloud solutions are supporting greater sharing and accessibility of health data.”
The Cloud’s power in Healthcare is ultimately tied to better communication.
“Medical imaging is one of the most prolific uses of the cloud,” continues Ocano.“By utilizing a cloud solution for storing and sharing large data files involved in medical imaging, hospitals, physicians, and other organizations save on costs while boosting speed and efficiency.”
Imaging is far from the only use for the cloud, of course – it’s actually just the tip of the iceberg. The real power of the cloud in the health industry is that it allows for better communication, explains MBA Health Care Management, between patients and professionals, between professionals and suppliers, and between organizations. This not only enables healthcare professionals to provide better treatment through access to cloud diagnostics platforms; it also lets them more effectively communicate with their patients.
Not only that, the recent surge in consumer health apps means that many patients are taking it upon themselves to improve their health independent of the medical profession. This means that patients eat healthier, sleep better, and exercise more. That might not sound particularly beneficial at first – healthier patients mean less business, right?
Consider, however, that the widespread availability of fitness apps and cloud-enabled health trackers means that there’s less strain being put on the healthcare system. This allows it to better serve those patients who still require care, while equipping many more to take care of themselves. Not bad, right?
We’ve included MBA Health Care Management’s infographic below, for those of you interested in checking it out – it paints a rather promising picture of the cloud’s relationship with modern medicine – a relationship that’s likely to further deepen as we move into 2015.
It’s Not All Sunshine And Roses
Now, it’s worth mentioning at this point that, although cloud computing’s definitely beneficial to healthcare, the relationship between the two is far from perfect. Given that healthcare firms typically manage some of the most sensitive data in the world, they’re subject to some rather stringent regulations on how that data should be accessed and stored. It’s to be expected that decision-makers might be a bit nervous about jumping to the cloud, especially in light of some of the negative press it’s received lately.
Those concerns are hardly unfounded. Recent research by cloud security expert Skyhigh Networks found that 77% of the cloud services currently being used in healthcare are considered a medium security risk, while 13% of them are high-risk. What that means is that 90% of the cloud infrastructure currently utilized by the healthcare industry is at risk of being breached, leaking highly-confidential patient information into the wrong hands.
Security isn’t the only obstacle to cloud adoption here, either. Plenty of healthcare organizations already have extensive infrastructure in place – legacy data centers and networks large enough that migrating all of their stuff to the cloud seems like a horrendously cumbersome task, even without taking into account the vast libraries of information in books and on paper. We’re talking about decades – perhaps even centuries – of data here.
Cloud computing has changed the game for healthcare providers, equipping them with an unprecedented capacity for collaboration, communication, and data management. At the same time, it’s introduced its fair share of problems as well, chief among which is the risk of private information being compromised. At the end of the day, though, properly managed, these risks are minimal and far outstripped by the advantages of cloud adoption.
There can be little doubt that the healthcare industry will eventually migrate in its entirety to the cloud – and that, in the process, it will find a solution to the ever-present issues of security and compliance.
About William – Will Hayles is a technical writer and blogger for Outscale, a leading cloud hosting provider in the USA and France.