Throughout the halls of the world’s busiest hospitals, there’s an unlikely force hard at work: cloud computing. At any given moment, it’s running essential applications to keep the hospital operating without a hitch; it’s analyzing patterns from years' worth of unstructured data to help doctors make a diagnosis; and it’s being accessed by a patient who wants to view their recent lab results from the comfort of home.
This is what the future of technology in the healthcare industry looks like. And today, more and more companies are ditching their siloed data systems in exchange for cloud computing. According to BCC research1, the global healthcare cloud computing market is expected to hit $35 billion by 2022, with an annualized growth rate of 11.6%. Today, more than 83% of the healthcare industry is using the cloud for their business operations..2
So what’s driving this growth? The short answer: The cloud offers benefits for everyone involved. Patients get more control over their data. And providers can streamline their internal procedures at reduced costs—all while benefiting from access to big medical data whenever they need it.
Is it time for your healthcare company to make the move to the cloud?
Here are seven reasons why you should accelerate your transition to the cloud right now.
1. Streamlined Access to Patient Data
Before the cloud, obtaining full copies of patient records was a tedious and slow process. But when you migrate these records to the cloud, all of that data is centralized, enabling instant access to information anywhere and anytime. That means when a doctor needs information about a patient’s medical background, they can pull up everything they want to know at a moment’s notice.
This makes it easier for doctors to collaborate, too. In the past, a patient might have a separate file for medical records at each doctor they visit—some records at their family doctor, some kept by a dentist, and some at a specialist’s office. Through cloud technology, this information is synchronized and shared across offices in real-time—no matter where the doctor is.
2. Enhanced Security of Sensitive Patient Information
When the electronic health records (EHR) mandate was established a few years ago,3 health care providers ditched their outdated filing systems, adopting their own on-site digital data storage infrastructure instead. But they were met with challenges: The upgrades required the retention of IT staff who were trained in data security to keep patient information safe.
Today, healthcare providers have found a more secure alternative: Outsourcing data storage to HIPAA-compliant cloud services. These services provide data storage of patient EHRs that comply with legally-mandated requirements for data security and privacy. This laser-focus on compliance ensures healthcare providers can access a cloud solution that properly protects sensitive information.
3. Decreased Data Storage and Management Costs
A hospital can significantly reduce the overhead costs associated with hardware and IT staff by moving to the cloud. For starters, healthcare organizations subscribing to the cloud don’t need to implement on-premises software solutions since it is centrally hosted on the servers of the service providers. This eliminates the costly need for a massive, in-house computer network. You might have freed up your in-house IT staff to work on more strategic business projects and get them out of the day to day troubleshooting and fire fighting. If a program needs implementing or updating, for example, service technicians from a remote location will handle the work for you.
Overall, 88% of healthcare organizations have witnessed a 20% drop4 in IT-related expenses because of the cloud.
4. Improved Backup Capabilities and Protection from Data Loss
Data loss is bad news, no matter what industry you’re in. According to Gartner Group, 43% of companies were immediately put out of business due to a major loss of computer records. Another 51% permanently closed their doors within two years. That leaves an alarming 6% survival rate after data is seriously compromised.
These stats beg the question: If something threatened your institution’s data, would you be prepared? The hurricanes that devastated the Gulf Coast, Florida, and Puerto Rico during the summer of 2017 are a reminder of this risk, after they inflicted serious damage on hospital IT infrastructures. Remote cloud deployments can be used to regularly back up hospital data and systems in the event of an outage or cyberattack, protecting your vital patient information and records from data loss.
5. Smarter Use of Big Data to Treat Patients and Improve Outcomes
This is where the benefits of cloud-based big data comes into the picture. Thanks to the cloud, reams of data that were previously stored in dozens of different locations are pulled out of their silos and quickly analyzed using complex computer algorithms and machine learning. This helps healthcare providers better detect, predict, and respond to conditions that would previously go unnoticed.
6. Access to True Data Interoperability
Back in 2018, Fitbit partnered with Google5 to take users’ fitness stats and put them to good use. Using Google’s Cloud Healthcare API, Fitbit users could share health data with their healthcare providers. With this information at their fingertips, doctors unlocked a clearer picture of their patient’s health, and they could use that data for more personalized medical care.
This is just a small snapshot of how wearable, IoT-enabled medical devices are connecting patients to their doctors. Today, a growing number of healthcare providers offer IoT-enabled devices (think ingestible sensors or wearable heart monitors). And by connecting those devices to a hospital’s cloud system, a patient’s data is quickly transmitted straight to their doctor. This gives medical providers useful insights and access to real-time health monitoring. And that means better care and quicker diagnoses for patients—without them ever stepping foot inside a waiting room.
7. Access to New Telehealth Capabilities
To avoid potential exposure in hospitals or overburdening a clinic or emergency room, more and more healthcare providers are turning to telehealth to connect with—and consult—patients from the comfort of their homes. And at the heart of telehealth services is cloud technology—and the streamlined integration of patient data and interoperability that comes with it.
By migrating systems to a cloud-based environment, a patient could easily find your telehealth services, schedule a visit, pay for the visit, and access test results seamlessly. Providers can benefit from a mirror-image experience: Low-friction access to their clinical system, easy-to-use technology and tools, and seamless integration with relevant electronic health records.