Cloud technology offers benefits to virtually every field, including the life sciences and healthcare. The coronavirus pandemic has led many health processes to migrate a virtual format, which has driven adoption of cloud technology within the healthcare industry.
However, many organizations were already adopting cloud technologies prior to the pandemic because of the unique benefits provided by decentralizing data storage. According to professional projections, the global healthcare cloud computing market is expected to grow larger than $55 billion by 20205. These is an incredible increase of nearly $48 billion from only a couple years ago.
Some of the major benefits of cloud computing for the healthcare industry include:
1. Decreased Costs
Healthcare in the United States costs significantly more than it does in other countries, so it is important to figure out any ways to reduce the costs of delivering care. Cloud technology can dramatically reduce the cost of data storage for healthcare organizations.
Without the cloud, healthcare systems need on-site data centers. These require a significant upfront investment in equipment and ongoing maintenance charges. They are also responsible for the costs associated with physical space for storage centers.
Cloud computing is often less expensive and also facilitates the migration of data whenever changes occur. Maintaining on-site datasets makes data transfers much more complicated and thus much more expensive. Such transitions can be accomplished with the click of button using cloud systems. Cloud computing vendors can slash data storage costs while also making it easy to share and transfer this information when necessary.
2. Data Security
One of the biggest challenges in healthcare delivery is protecting private health information. Healthcare organizations need to have high standards to comply with policy and ensure that patient information is never jeopardized. Unfortunately, in recent years, hackers have increasingly targeted medical records.
Many healthcare organizations have turned to the cloud as a means of safeguarding against these attacks. Hybrid cloud solutions make it possible to move seamlessly between private and public data systems to provide access to needed information while protecting the data in electronic health records.
These hybrid solutions are especially appealing to healthcare organizations because they are easily scalable. Thus, as the system continues to grow, information remains protected without the need to change security precautions or update systems, which can leave information vulnerable.
3. Medical Research
Major academic medical centers often use information from patients to drive research. This information is typically de-identified, and moving it from hospital databases to those maintained by researchers can be a complex, time-consuming process. Cloud computing makes it much easier to transfer this information in a secure, timely manner to promote easier research.
One center already using the cloud for this purpose is the University of California, Los Angeles Health system. It uses information collected from patients to drive research on precision medicine. The cloud facilitates seamless transfer of information from the hospital to researchers while maintaining the integrity of involved data.
Interoperability between health data and research systems in the cloud is a way to drive improvements in medical care in a way that is impossible with more traditional information storage.
4. Clinical Collaboration
Within the healthcare environment, collaboration between teams is critical to delivering the best care possible. Cloud-based software provides a range of different tools to drive collaboration like video communication and enterprise messaging. These tools can improve the clinical workflow and reduce delays in care.
Importantly, the cloud can facilitate instant communication and collaboration between clinicians who are physically very distant from each other. These systems can make it easier for specialists to communicate with each other quickly to provide information about symptoms and get advice.
Currently, waiting for communication between specialists can cause significant wait times for patients. Even worse, some providers may not have access to consults with specialists if none are nearby or within the same healthcare network. Cloud systems can help avoid these issues and make it quick and easy to share patient data to get personalized recommendations.
5. Patient Ownership
One of the most exciting applications of cloud technology in medicine is the potential for giving patients control over their own health data. Currently, health data is stored in the particular electronic health records of each healthcare system. The problem is that these systems often cannot talk to each other, so paper records need to be sent to communicate information about a patient. This process increases time to treatment and can result in repeat testing and exams.
With the cloud, it could be possible to store this information in a decentralized place that is controlled by the patient rather than the healthcare system. Then, each provider could simply access the cloud to retrieve key information about a patient with that person’s consent.
Security of information would remain a primary concern, but cloud systems have ways of protecting this information. The reliability of a cloud system is very high and this approach could reduce repeat testing and data redundancy, which ultimately improves healthcare delivery while reducing expenses.