Though cloud computing in healthcare isn’t a new concept, its adoption is booming just now. COVID-19 and social distancing have fueled the rapid digitalization in the healthcare industry, making cloud migration the first step toward digital transformation.
With over 12 years of experience and nearly 100 successful cloud migrations, Acropolium knows how cloud computing can reshape your healthcare business and target it for growth.
In this article, we’ll run you through the most common medical cloud computing use cases and market trends. We’ll also give you a short overview of the benefits of cloud adoption and share some practical tips on overcoming its challenges.
How cloud computing is used in healthcare
With cloud computing, healthcare organizations can use remote servers hosted on the web for storing and processing data. Remote servers are maintained by cloud providers, so the setup and maintenance of the cloud-based architecture cost less than with on-premise servers. What’s more, cloud infrastructure is very flexible and can scale quickly, matching a variety of business needs.
A staggering 98% of healthcare organizations are now adopting or planning to adopt cloud computing, and for a good reason. Cloud computing allows healthcare facilities to centralize large volumes of electronic health records (EHR) coming from different sources and make the records accessible for all parties.
Better management and interoperability of data result in more accurate forecasting and decision-making. With access to specific records, healthcare specialists can make data-driven decisions, improve treatment results, and even forecast seasonal disease outbreaks.
Yet, the adoption of cloud services in the industry goes far beyond data management and analytics. The rise of wireless technologies and the cloud have made professional medical care broadly available in remote locations, including isolated rural areas. But before we turn to cloud computing applications in healthcare, let’s have a short market overview.
Healthcare cloud computing market trends
Indeed, the future of cloud computing in healthcare is promising. Its market is set to grow more than twice within five years and reach nearly $65 billion by 2025. This growth is fueled by the COVID-19 outbreak and rapid digitalization of the industry: according to HIPAA, 60% of healthcare organizations moved further into the cloud after the pandemic.
Social distancing has made virtual care a new normal, forcing healthcare organizations to get on board the innovations train. We can see the increasing adoption of real-time big data analytics, remote patient monitoring, and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), all of which heavily rely on cloud computing. More than 90% of surveyed healthcare organizations are planning or already using machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and IoT. 85% of them even report about deploying or planning to deploy robotic process automation.
As advanced technologies become omnipresent, healthcare organizations are basically forced to adapt to the changing environment. But instead of thinking about it as a burden, embracing cloud computing can actually help clinics beat the competition and deliver better patient care.
Cloud computing use cases in healthcare
The use cases of cloud computing are countless thanks to the advantages this technology brings to the table. But how can cloud computing be used in healthcare? Let’s take a closer look at the three most promising examples.
Telemedicine is an excellent alternative to traditional in-person consultations. Today, patients can receive medical advice and access their health records, lab results, and prescriptions remotely via cloud-based platforms. Thanks to telemedicine, healthcare professionals can monitor chronic illnesses, provide remote care, and even carry out surgeries.
According to Medical News Today, the most frequent medical error in the US is a diagnostic mistake. Up to 80,000 deaths per year can be related to misdiagnosis, often caused by a lack of data and poor data management.
But AI-based cloud solutions like clinical decision support systems (CDSS) collect relevant data in a single place, helping healthcare specialists improve the accuracy of their diagnoses and make their decisions data-driven. AI also enables predictive analytics to identify risks and trends before they grow into serious issues.
For example, AI-driven predictive analytics enabled researchers to develop deep neural networks for forecasting the risk of patient death based on their ECG results. The model identifies patients at risk before any pathological signs develop.
Cloud computing in healthcare improves hospital management on many levels. With centralized cloud data storage and the network of connected devices, healthcare organizations can monitor patients in real-time as well as simplify staff and supply chain management. Healthcare organizations can instantly access and share medical data, track inventory, equipment location, and easily manage doctors’ schedules without overlaps.
Cloud computing fuels machine learning and AI, which can automate and optimize routine operations. For example, document auto-filling, billing, reporting are areas where technology does all the heavy lifting.
The importance of cloud computing in healthcare is hard to deny. Some companies migrate to the cloud to streamline data management, while others use this technology as a foundation for further innovations. Let’s take a more detailed look at why companies choose cloud computing.
Benefits of cloud computing in healthcare
Cloud computing impacts both providers and patients by cutting down expenses while improving care quality. Though it can be hard to distinguish the benefits of cloud computing from those of other technologies it enables, we’ve chosen the six benefits that are most often mentioned by our customers.
With cloud computing services, you pay for the resources you use. Cloud service providers are fully responsible for administration, maintenance, and availability, so your healthcare organization can focus on patient care instead of worrying about setup and hardware management. After all, not every clinic has an IT department.
Cloud service providers make sure the technology they use is top-notch. Plus, they follow failproof security practices to protect your data from cyberattacks and subsequent money loss. This is an obvious advantage in the highly competitive and regulated healthcare industry, where the cost of a single data breach is approaching $10 million.
Infrastructure efficiency, workflow optimization, better patient management, and other indirect benefits of cloud computing for the healthcare industry also help save providers’ money and, thus, reduce care costs for patients.
Better customer service
Patient expectations and the need for more personalized care are growing: 60% of patients don’t feel that communication with healthcare organizations is relevant. Almost 70% of patients expect providers to engage with them in real-time, and this kind of load often requires cloud computing.
The use of cloud computing in healthcare makes patient journeys more transparent: from the first appointment to insurance coverage and record access. Telemedicine, automated appointment scheduling, and virtual assistants are just a few examples of the technologies that rely on cloud computing and help enhance patient management and engagement. More accurate diagnosis and illness prediction also improve treatment outcomes and, with it, patient satisfaction.
In healthcare, scalability is historically a serious challenge to cope with. Healthcare software should process large volumes of multiformat data while maintaining high availability and uptime. At the same time, healthcare isn’t a stable industry. Even minor disease outbreaks can require you to scale up your applications fast, while more calm periods may force you to scale the system down to optimize costs.
Unlike on-premise servers, cloud computing services are highly flexible and scalable, helping your clinic to swiftly adapt to new circumstances, be it flu season or a pandemic.
Cloud computing technology allows storing terabytes of data and processing millions of requests in seconds. Coupled with AI, it creates more opportunities for real-time data analytics, delivering opportunities for more accurate diagnostics and personalized treatment plans.
But the use cases of real-time analytics go far beyond patient care. Analytics powers medical research, clinical trials, and drug discovery. For example, cloud computing is used as a platform for DNA analysis and collaboration. The research claims that cloud computing will likely remain a solid foundation for large-scale genomic collaboration.
Accessible data flow
In 2014, the federal mandate forced US healthcare organizations to use EHR instead of paper record-keeping. Since the cloud offers scalable and available storage for large volumes of data, the service has become a blessing for healthcare.
Data stored in the cloud is properly secured and can be easily accessed by authorized users from any device with an internet connection. Real-time updates ensure that all records are consistent and up-to-date. What’s more, cloud computing increases data interoperability, enabling data integrations across healthcare systems. Simply put, your data is always available for sharing and use.
Collaborative patient care
Thanks to cloud computing, healthcare organizations and professionals can easily collaborate on shared data in real-time. Physicians can view patient medical records and share them with other specialists to get a consultation from a colleague. A laboratory can upload a patient’s test results, MRA images, and other data, which will be immediately available to nurses and physicians. Finally, physicians can share data with pharmacists and work together to create better medication plans.
Cloud computing can also simplify care management between a patient and multiple healthcare parties, including clinics, physicians, and insurers. Instead of putting care management on the patient’s shoulders (what 60% of patients complain about), all parties can instantly check the medical records of other specialists.
These benefits clearly show why the role of cloud computing in healthcare departments is widely acknowledged. Still, cloud migration isn’t as smooth as we would like.
Read also: How to Build a Kiosk Software for Healthcare.
Challenges of cloud computing implementation in healthcare
Cloud computing is an excellent solution for healthcare, but before committing to it, you should know about the challenges of cloud implementation.
Despite the advanced approaches and strategies, security remains the biggest setback for cloud implementation. Sensitive health data attracts cybercriminals, who are getting craftier with time. Cybersecurity Ventures estimates that in 2021, there will be 2-3 times more cyberattacks in healthcare than in other industries.
Medical data management and storage should comply with numerous regulations, including General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Though cloud providers can simplify compliance due to in-built security features (such as access control and encryption), data security falls under the responsibility of a healthcare organization.
Unrealized cloud potential
McKinsey’s research shows that cloud computing in healthcare can generate the industry an economic value of up to $140 billion by 2030. This value is largely driven by the innovation and digitalization capabilities (IoT, automation, analytics) cloud unlocks.
However, despite the promising numbers, healthcare organizations often treat cloud computing as a more cost-effective IT operating model, limiting the opportunities this technology can bring to their businesses.
Cloud migration should be a part of comprehensive digital business transformation if you want to get the most out of it.
Though cloud providers like Amazon guarantee 99.99% availability of their services, downtimes do happen. In November 2020, Amazon Web Service (AWS) experienced an outage that caused the services of Adobe, Roku, the Washington Post, and even New York’s Metropolitan Transport Authority to go down. In healthcare, where every second matters, such a sudden and unpredicted cloud outage can even cost lives.
This challenge can be addressed by multi-cloud computing and hybrid cloud, where the cloud is used together with on-site storage. A local server minimizes outage risks while also giving healthcare organizations the feeling of more control over their data. No wonder that 95% of them consider the hybrid an ideal choice.
Though these challenges can make you feel uneasy, don’t let them scare you out of your migration to the cloud. Instead, invest in an experienced team of professional developers who can help you bypass these challenges.
Read also: How to optimize your cloud computing costs.
How Acropolium can help you adopt cloud computing
Cloud computing helps healthcare organizations save costs, improve patient and facility management, make use of heaps of data and medical collaboration. What’s more, the technology can become a basis for all kinds of software and hardware integrations, allowing your clinic to stay ahead of trends and beat the competition. You just need the right guidance on your way to cloud migration.
Acropolium has over 17 years of experience in software development and consulting across 20 industries. But more than that, we have 11 years of hands-on experience with healthcare solutions. And thanks to our expertise in cloud computing, IoT, AI, big data, and blockchain, we can move your infrastructure to the cloud or build a new one that will meet your business needs and capabilities.