Cloud computing systems and applications in healthcare is a technological marvel that is disrupting the way hospitals and other medical care institutes function. Take a look at how cloud computing in healthcare is improving the lives of doctors and patients.
It’s only at a ripe old age that one realizes the importance of one’s health. Therefore, people need a better way to handle their health when hospital visits start to happen more than family outings. But what about the people that spend their entire lives in hospitals? I’m talking about medical professionals who selflessly work to help people increase their lifespan and make their lives easier.
The medical profession is a very stressful and demanding one, with long hours and high-stakes decisions to take every day. Hence, a slight mistake could cost someone’s life. Healthcare industry is integrating the latest technological advancements so that the caregivers can work less stressed and make accurate decisions. Cloud computing offers precise data access from most of the the modern medical equipment.
One such trending technology that is getting all the hype this year is cloud computing in healthcare. So, let’s take a deep dive into the impacts of cloud computing in medical field.
Table of Content
What Is Cloud Computing In Healthcare?
Standard definition states cloud computing is the remote availability of computer systems and resources for data storage and computing power. In simple terms, all the data of one’s business (i.e.) the hospital’s data, is saved on a remote server. Hence, as technology integration advances, medical institutes will also be capable of accessing the computing power of cloud technology.
Until the past couple of years, hospitals usually stored all medical data on the computers and servers within the campus. With cloud computing technology, these data are now stored on remote cloud servers, accessible from any device with right credentials.
Why Are Healthcare Organizations Moving To The Cloud?
It’s pretty obvious why healthcare institutes are interested in upgrading their data management systems with cloud computing. But, we want to talk about the best reasons why healthcare organizations are adopting HIPAA-compliant cloud computing solutions.
Greater Reach During Emergencies (Like COVID-19)
The COVID-19 virus made us realize how easily a single virus can spread across the world and hurt humanity. Further, we also learned that a global medical emergency can start within a week, and we need to be prepared always.
With cloud computing solutions, hospitals can shift the entire administration work onto cloud, saving immense time and energy. The medical institutes that are digitally prepared will be the ones that help patients and also stay profitable simultaneously.
Scalability & Flexibility In Work
Flexibility and scaling are the biggest factors not just for cloud computing but for any new technology adoption. All the bulky file rooms or in-building server rooms can be broken down and simultaneously make it possible for flexible data access on multiple devices.
Scaling the infrastructure has never been easier. The cloud computing infrastructure is already designed to be done effortlessly. So, scaling can be done by just buying more server space, and behold! You scaled with a single push of a button.
Cloud Computing Is Cost-Effective
Some of the highest costs that institutes bear for in-house server capability are hardware, servers, and a working server room. Hence, by adopting the cloud computing solution for healthcare, medical institutes are freed from such investments.
The cost-saving doesn’t stop here. With the cloud storage approach, there are no up-front charges. The medical institutes will have to only pay for the resources they use, resulting in massive cost savings. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about the maintenance or scaling of servers. That will be taken care of by the cloud service providers.
Security & Reliability
One of the most common reasons why medical institutes hesitate to choose a cloud computing solution is security. It is instinctive to be a bit scared of a massive technology that one doesn’t understand completely. And that is why we have written this blog to get you familiarized with the implications of cloud computing in the healthcare industry.
Let’s look at an example to get familiar with the security and reliability aspect of cloud computing. Let’s consider that a doctor at your hospital uses a laptop to access all the medical records of their patients. If the laptop gets lost, its data could land in the wrong hands and harm the patients and your hospital.
If all the devices of medical staff are connected to the cloud servers, the device’s data could be remotely wiped. This in turn keeps the patient’s medical data and the hospital’s reputation safe.
Do you need more proof on the level of security and reliability that cloud computing offers? The CIA made a $600 million purchase into cloud technology to begin their shift into this new approach.
The essential thing in the medical profession is to save someone’s life at any cost. This means that there would often be situations where medical professionals from different departments or organizations collaborate and work together.
This collaborative approach becomes seamless with a cloud computing solution. Healthcare professionals can exchange patient data through a secure cloud computing server, saving time, and boosting efficiency for better treatment.
The cloud technology can be very useful even for the patients to make payments and easily claim their insurance. Several insurance companies now accept cloud-based structures to file details about medical procedures that the insurance claim is for.
The medical data can be securely shared with anybody who needs to see it, allowing for quicker procedure completion.
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
The words Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning may seem too big and corporate-esque to fit with the healthcare industry. But in fact, AI and ML shine the most with medical institute integration.
How many times have the Chief of Medicine at your hospital pulled their hair creating a schedule for the staff? That effort has grown ten times since the COVID-19 pandemic hit our world.
In such times AI and ML capabilities can be a crucial solution to solve this management problem for medical institutes. As the technology advances, you can also use AI and ML to scan through mountains of complex medical data. This way the machine can make accurate decisions in minutes, which would have taken a doctor about two days.
The integration of AI and ML is rising like a wildfire in many industries. Cloud computing is supporting this transition into the mainstream medical industry.
Data Storage & Management
The primary reason for choosing the application of cloud computing in healthcare is medical data storage and management. If you belong to the medical field then you must know that doctors go through colossal data to treat patients.
Half of the data that doctors need is already available online, like electronic medical records, patient portals, doctor’s app, etc. That’s a lot of data to manage and analyze, and not all of it can be handled by in-campus equipment.
The cloud computing approach allows healthcare institutions to store their data remotely, cutting costs on setting up and maintaining servers. You can store hospital data off-site, access it remotely, leaving the hassle to manage and scale servers to the professionals.
Statistics On Cloud Computing & Healthcare
How Is Cloud Computing Transforming The Healthcare Industry?
The cloud computing storage solution has been an innovative and game-changing decision for companies of all sizes. Cloud technology is causing a significant culture shift for businesses as a whole.
By now, you must have understood why every healthcare institute is interested in integrating cloud computing solutions. So, now let’s take a look at how exactly cloud computing is transforming the medical field.
1. Ease Of Interoperability
Interoperability is one of the best things that came from cloud technology integration with the medical field. As a result of this in-genius technology, patient data is easily accessible by doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals working on the case, irrespective of the point of origin or storage.
Cloud computing technology reduces the virtual distance between the medical specialists worldwide, allowing them to review cases and bring in their expertise irrespective of their geographical limitations.
Having the patient’s data in the cloud also simplifies the work of other non-emergency but essential healthcare segments like pharmaceuticals, insurance, and payments accelerating healthcare delivery and introducing efficiency in the process.
2. Access To High Powered Analytics
In the modern digital world, data is the biggest asset one can own. That is why the biggest companies in the world are Facebook and Google. An ordinary citizen’s most precious data is their healthcare data; it could help doctors provide quick and accurate medical care.
The HIPAA compliant cloud storage servers accumulate and structure patient data so that the medical professionals can easily pull out only the most relevant data they are looking for from the entire digital records.
With this highly powerful analytics, the computer can catch the micro details even while processing a colossal amount of medical data for the entire list of admitted patients in the hospital daily. Such kind of research work puts a heavy toll on a human, making them prone to making errors when working long hours.
3. Patient’s Ownership Of Data
Would you like to control your own social media data or give up the control to Facebook or Instagram? Obviously you would want it to be under your ownership. A person’s private medical data has equal if not more importance, so giving the end-users the ownership puts them at peace.
This approach brings a democratized feel to the system. Also, it increases patient participation in their health decisions, making them more aware of their medical conditions and motivating them to take active steps to improve their health.
Although cloud security remains a big concern for healthcare institutes, cloud storage reliability for medical data is definitely higher.
4. Telemedicine Capabilities
The biggest benefit of cloud computing in healthcare is its telemedicine capabilities. It means that all your patients’ medical history and all the information you need as a doctor will be available on your mobile phone through a telemedicine mobile app.
This extensive level of remote accessibility of data is probably the biggest advantage that cloud computing storage offers. Other cloud computing advantages that make it perfect for mobile use are reducing data redundancy and increasing system uptime.
Additionally, the backups are automated and provide multiple touchpoints where the data is stored, making the recovery of data much simpler. It also ensures that all the pertinent patient data are structured and on record so that nothing gets missed out from the medical professional.
Benefits of Cloud Computing in Healthcare Industry
Millions of healthcare institutes have already made the jump to cloud computing services and improved the way they worked with patient data. It’s a surefire guarantee that this shift of medical institutes to cloud computing will accelerate exponentially.
And here are a few reasons why this acceleration will take place this year.
1. Data Storage and Management
Any moderately big hospital or medical institute has to work with a tremendous amount of data and a colossal amount of paperwork. Many hospitals shifted to on-site servers to upgrade their offline, paperwork style, improving their working, and offer better service to the patients.
But sometimes, even the most sophisticated on-site hardware can’t handle it all. And an on-site server room also becomes a hassle when the hospitals have to upscale their server capabilities. Now, the cloud technology does it all for you, cutting down your extra costs and also taking all the hassle of server management away from your head.
2. Streamlined Data Access
When a patient shows some peculiar symptoms out of the blue, the first thing a doctor does is find what in the patient’s medical history could have triggered it. What if they need the data within a couple of minutes.
That’s when cloud computing storage comes in as a shining knight in armor. In a system where it is always difficult to fetch test reports and healthcare records from labs, cloud storage does the work in a fraction of a second.
3. Data Backup & Recovery
Medical data are very crucial and valuable. Losing your hospital’s patient data could hugely cost you both financially and in terms of your reputation. But you don’t need to worry about server crashes or any kind of data loss.
With healthcare cloud computing services, your hospital’s data records are entirely safe from data loss as the cloud backs up data automatically at regular intervals. At the same time, some offer multiple data storage points to recover your lost data from.
The advantage of timely backups and recovery options that cloud computing brings to the table minimizes the chances of critical data loss.
4. Better Data Helps In Better Treatment
Gone are the days when hospitals had to keep large rooms filled with cupboards having thousands of patient files. We are way past hand-written prescriptions and paper lab reports. The cloud files are available to access and easily transferable to multiple devices at a push of a button.
With the application of cloud computing services, data analysis becomes virtually error-free, helping medical professionals make informed decisions for their patients.
Barriers To Adoption Of Cloud Computing In Healthcare
History is proof that every great innovation has seen a lot of skepticism and fear from people, initially. Cloud technology is no different. The challenges of cloud computing in healthcare is paramount and that needs to be effectively dealt with. Besides, there are some concerns that people have from this rising innovation.
Here are some of the most common concerns that people have in adopting cloud computing in healthcare.
1. Security Concerns
As discussed earlier in the blog, the healthcare institutes’ biggest concern in adopting medical cloud computing is the security risks. The medical data that hospitals deal with, especially patient data, is inherently sensitive in nature. So the fear of data leaks are prominent in the healthcare industry.
There have been attacks on healthcare data servers and some leaks in the past. But cloud computing is upgrading each day and becoming more capable of resisting such cyber-attacks and system failures. These systems use security features like data encryption, security keys, blockchain integration, etc., to secure hospitals’ medical data.
2. Compliance With Security Norms
Hackers will always look for loopholes within a system and try to exploit it to gain sensitive data. That is why cloud services providers are asked to complete industry certifications and implement the best security standards.
There are various industry-standard regulation laws like HIPAA, GDPR, and HITECH that cloud computing services need to follow. The superior security standard for healthcare in the US is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA for short.
All cloud-based healthcare systems should comply with HIPAA, and it is advised to medical institutes to look for cloud service providers with HIPAA compliance.
3. System Downtime
Another big concern that people have with cloud computing is the system downtime. It’s much like when Google or Twitter goes down for a couple of hours once a year when the server maxes out the load capacity.
Such system downtime occurrences are quite rare, yet a reality which cloud be a big concern for a 24/7 working industry like healthcare. With a proficient cloud service provider, you’ll get contingency planning as a given with spare servers to mitigate load and multi-point backup of existing data.
For a successful cloud computing service, the mantra is to design a system that works even in failure and upgrades in success.
4. Limited Control
No one wants their personal data to be controlled by the cloud storage service provider they choose to store their data in, especially their hospital’s medical and patient data. There is no straightforward solution to this issue. The best thing being done right now is that the cloud service providers guarantee that the data will not be used for personal benefits, and there are many contracts and agreements to see that they stick to their word.
Types of Cloud Computing in Healthcare
Revolutionizing the healthcare industry via cloud computing solutions is more than just delivering medical information from multiple computers anytime, anywhere.
Cloud computing has many categories of solutions based on various healthcare digital applications like Managed Software-as-a-Service (MSaaS), Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS), Analytics-as-a-Service (AaaS), and identity and access management-as-a-service (IDaaS).
But here are the three most common cloud computing service models:
Let’s take a more in-depth look at these three most prominent cloud computing service models and find which of the following cloud computing solutions will deliver software applications to a client in the best way.
SaaS Cloud Computing Solution
The Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud solution can offer on-demand cloud hosting services for healthcare organizations, providing them quick access to their medical data and fulfilling satisfactory customer relationship management (CRM) with their patients.
The SaaS model is one of the most basic cloud computing models that offer a centrally stored data access approach through a web browser. Hence, it is perfect for smaller hospitals that want a quick and simple cloud solution where the vendors themselves do the servers’ upkeep and maintenance.
SaaS would be useful in the medical industry for functions like electronic health records (EHRs), medical practice management systems, and health information exchange (HIE).
IaaS Cloud Computing Solution
As the name suggests, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offers the cloud server infrastructure where the client, in this case, the hospitals can install their own operating system, data structure, and every bit of customization on the available infrastructure.
The IaaS cloud solutions are perfect for medical institutes looking for large scale storage and on-demand computing facilities. In other words, the healthcare organizations that choose the IaaS model control the operating systems, data storage, and deployed applications but not on the underlying cloud infrastructure.
IaaS is perfect for large healthcare institutes that want to have more control over the administration and handling of patients and their data based on a purely technological approach.
The IaaS cloud solution would be useful in the medical industry for functions like storage, networks, fundamental computing resources, running software like operating systems and applications.
PaaS Cloud Computing Solution
Platform as a Service (PaaS) offers a platform for medical institutes. This platform would help healthcare providers offer a security-enhanced environment for web-based services and cloud application deployment.
If easy accessibility and high customer (patient) interaction is your goal with a cloud computing integration, then PaaS is what you need for your chain of hospitals.
The PaaS model offers the most control over cloud environments by providing an environment where medical organizations can develop custom healthcare apps without worrying about the setup or maintenance of back-end infrastructure.
PaaS is the revolutionary cloud model that any mid-sized to large medical organization planning to digitize would look for. It’s an all-inclusive cloud computing solution for the healthcare industry.
SEE ALSO: Best Cloud Computing Models Explained: SaaS vs PaaS vs IaaS
How Can Organizations Be Sure They Are Using HIPAA-Compliant Cloud Solution?
This concern includes but is not limited to security measures, protocols for patient privacy, levels of data access rights for various stakeholders, breach defense procedure, enforcement of laws, etc.
At the moment, several healthcare organizations are only partially aware of the scale of security and possibilities that HIPAA compliance brings to the table. In many instances, HIPAA violations could be more than a direct attack of security; it could be the various degrees of control hospitals give up as clients depending on which kind of cloud computing service model they choose.
Healthcare organizations should always properly check vendors’ authenticity selling a HIPAA-compliant solution because not all vendors claiming HIPAA compliance are truly compliant or the best solution for a healthcare organization.
No matter its purpose and application, each cloud-based solution needs to be HIPAA compliant if it’s being used for the healthcare industry.
There are a few factors to observe and confirm when you wish to know whether the cloud service that you opt for is HIPAA compliant or not.
The vendor you choose should sign a business associate agreement. Further, if the vendor hesitates to sign the contract or isn’t even aware of this, you are approaching the wrong cloud computing service vendor.
Ensure that the entire cloud solution is HIPAA compliant and not just a part of the tools or features. It is not uncommon for cloud providers to offer tools in collaboration with other vendors. Hence, having a primary vendor’s HIPAA compliance does not necessarily extend to the other vendors in collaboration.
The HIPAA risk assessment ensures that the cloud service you choose for your medical organization will safeguard the sensitive medical data you store in that cloud. So, you should ensure that the medical data that you store on the cloud storage is actually HIPAA-compliant.
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Where To Start With Cloud Computing Integration?
Going with a cloud service vendor may seem the easy option, but the easy way is often also the wrong way. There are far too many vendors that are either not compliant with HIPAA regulations or simply not experienced in providing cloud computing and storage services to healthcare institutes.
The best way forward is to become your own vendor. In other words, you need to get a proficient cloud application development company to build your cloud infrastructure with the best cloud platforms like Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, Salesforce, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud, etc.
Ensure that you choose a cloud application development company with enough expertise and experience in building, setting up, and successfully running cloud servers. So, if you wish to learn more about how a cloud computing solution can help your healthcare institute, talk to our cloud experts.