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Why Healthcare Industry Should Invest in Cloud?

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Cloud technology adoption today

The HIMSS Cloud Analytics Survey of healthcare service providers in the US, finds that 83% of American Healthcare providers use some form of cloud computing today. The survey finds that for these organisations, top three reasons for adopting a cloud solution include – less cost than current IT maintenance (55.7%), speed of deployment (53.2%) and solving the problem of not having enough internal staff and/or expertise to support on-premise alternatives (51.6%). Cloud-based applications are most commonly used for administrative functions including hosting financial, operational, HR and back office applications and data (73.4%), followed by IT functions (73.4%), and clinical applications and data (52.4%) third.

Areas for Cloud technology application in Healthcare

In an era where avoiding a digital platform can be akin to a death knell to businesses, across the globe the Healthcare industry is gingerly moving towards cloud computing. The healthcare sector today is struggling with several socio-economic and technological challenges. The need of the hour is to provide quality care services, be more patient centric and at the same time improve operational efficiency at reduced cost. Customers have now become demanding and are looking for more transparent and instant information flow within the system – be it from service providers or payers. They now want online access to their health information on mobile and other devices; they are looking for more transparency in terms of claim settlement from payers, etc. Widening access to health care means provider organizations need greater agility to adapt to change at high speed and low cost. Moving patient’s electronic health records (EHR) to the cloud and enabling centralized and secure access through mobile devices by the stakeholders – clinicians, payers and patients will facilitate real time collaboration for delivering patient care with a manifold increase in agility.

Digitisation of healthcare information and converting them to Electronic Health Records (EHRs) has become a necessity for service providers to provide quality care to patients. However this needs robust IT infrastructure, especially to store images, and entails upfront capital investment for set-up and maintenance. The viable solution for healthcare service providers would be to move to cloud storage services with the advantages of a metered, pay per use model. Infrastructure can be scaled up or down on demand without upfront capital investment.

Healthcare information on cloud can be accessed across networks – be it service providers, payers or patients. This is especially useful for payers gathering enrolment, claim and administration data across various states and analysing them for actionable insights, which in turn can uplift their service delivery quality

Through centralized patients EHR on cloud coupled with devices that enable remote diagnostics, now quality services can be provided even to patients at remote locations and to those that require care in the comfort of their homes.

The Road Ahead

Cloud adoption in healthcare though at a nascent stage, seems to be the future technology with more and more healthcare organizations moving to cloud. In moving to the cloud, the health care industry hopes to find new opportunities for consolidation of patient data which will help clinicians to make better decisions, while their organizations can save money through reduced redundancy and cheaper operational costs.

The key barriers to cloud technology adoption for healthcare organizations today are – security concerns around patient data and availability and uptime concerns. As Accenture points out, the cloud can actually be more secure than individual hospital or physician systems. The cloud computing industry is fast developing the technical expertise to deploy leading-edge security technologies that wouldn’t be cost-effective for an individual hospital or physician’s office to have on-premise, thereby making the cloud option the best bet for data security.

As per the HIMSS 2014 survey, 48.3% of IT healthcare providers have had performance and downtime issues with their cloud service providers. Slow responsiveness of hosted applications and data (32.5%), downtime and unavailability of applications & data (23.3%) and response rate too slow for data back up in the cloud (3.3%) are the three most common performance areas IT healthcare organizations cite in the survey. The Cloud Providers are fast addressing these issues and gearing towards entering into business associate agreements with their customers with specific SLAs for assuring security, availability and uptime to give them the needed comfort to move to the cloud.

In all, the urgent need for efficient and secure sharing of patient information across locations in a synchronized manner while optimising costs, could be a key driver for adoption of cloud technology in healthcare.

Usha Subramanian, Head – Pre-Sales, Blue Star Infotech

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