On the journey to 2024, there’s more value and less risk for healthcare leaders who move to the cloud

Across the healthcare sector, we are seeing significant momentum and interest in cloud as an essential enabler. Digital technologies connect processes and services, enabling care professionals to understand and meet changing needs. Precision medicine is about using big data and analytics to drive better insight into health and disease, to identify problems earlier on and develop personalized care regimes. As populations continue to expand and age while healthcare demands intensify, the agility of cloud and its power to enable real-time data-sharing places it on the critical path to enabling the shift to precision medicine.

Back in 2019, the global healthcare cloud computing market size was $21 billion; by 2024, it is expected to reach $64 billion. In the past, there has been hesitancy about moving to cloud, with questions around cybersecurity, data governance and return on investment. So, what’s changed and how can healthcare leaders best manage their own organization’s journey to cloud?

Interoperability

Interoperability remains a key ambition for healthcare. In recent years, we have been focused on the adoption of digital systems like electronic health records (EHRs), enterprise resource planning systems (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and specialty systems. This has been important and difficult work, but the next challenge is moving beyond these silos to use data along the entire continuum of care. Organizations need to be able to analyze, model, report, and share insights - which is nearly impossible with traditional IT infrastructures. Cloud is an important enabler of essential interoperability across systems, organizations, and stakeholders.

Quality of care

EHRs bring significant opportunity for improved quality of care, access, and administrative simplification. Healthcare organizations have been able to drive some value from the move from paper to electronic, but the journey continues to achieve the required quality, safety and efficiencies. Aligning an organization’s cloud strategy with initiatives that drive better care will ensure long-term value. The opportunities for cloud to underpin quality are vast:

  • Increased access to healthcare records for patients
  • Improved patient experience from check-in to check out
  • Consumer wearable devices, patient engagement, and EHR access
  • Focus on data analytics and insights across the continuum of care
  • Increased use of virtual care/telehealth
  • Accelerator of medical research
  • Real-time collaboration among clinicians around the world
  • Payer and provider collaboration for chronic disease management

Accelerating innovation

Cloud, quite simply, accelerates innovation: the agility, flexibility, and computing power it offers enable faster introduction and evolution of completely new ways of working, delivering services and sharing data. It also underpins closer collaboration between providers, patients, payers, and life science organizations. Hybrid cloud services combine the scale and efficiencies of the public cloud with the security and control of private cloud services. Healthcare organizations IT functions can leverage services from public cloud providers to make application development faster and more robust. Having access to more data means they can utilize machine learning and artificial intelligence to inform clinical decisions.

Reducing security risks in the cloud

According to the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), security remains the biggest concern for healthcare leaders as they consider a cloud initiative. Public cloud providers have addressed many of the early concerns about security and advanced both the technology and management of public cloud. Today, many would argue that cloud offers more security.

- Legacy technology: healthcare organizations struggle to secure the budget needed to replace legacy infrastructure. Cloud providers utilize the latest technology and replace technology proactively which also makes it easier to patch and maintain. The use of cloud also reduces capital expenditure requirements, freeing cash that may be used to further advance the digitalization of healthcare processes.

- Technical expertise: healthcare organizations are an attractive target for cyberattacks. Many organizations don’t have the technical expertise and resources to keep up with security. Cloud providers can dedicate entire teams to this work and are highly motivated to secure the data.

- Fewer vulnerabilities: healthcare organizations are more likely to have multiple vulnerabilities and have fewer resources to identify and test for vulnerabilities. Cloud providers dedicate time and resources to both identifying these risks and often hire outside experts to test their systems.

- Disaster recovery: working with a cloud partner to define protocols for disaster recovery saves time and critical resources within a healthcare team.

Strategic assessment and planning

There have been major advances in the cloud market, both in terms of private and public offerings. Providers of public cloud have invested significantly in capabilities that are designed specifically for the healthcare market. With a broader set of mature offerings, it’s easier for healthcare organizations to choose the blend of cloud services that’s right for them. To do this, it is critical for an organization to understand and assess their particular context and requirements. Strategic planning is one of the most important steps to ensuring that organizations maximize their long-term value from cloud. This involves identifying organizational goals, assessing and committing the required resources, and identifying the most appropriate cloud partners who can work to understand the specific requirements and the right build components.

Healthcare leaders have been asking the right questions when it comes to cloud delivering value. Like any digital investment, the strategic planning, implementation, and management are critical to driving those outcomes. Healthcare is moving to cloud - and discovering more value and less risk.

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About Heather Haugen
Chief Science Officer for Digital Health Solutions for Atos and member of the Scientific Community
Dr. Heather Haugen has deep expertise in health information technology and a passion for research and the application of those outcomes to the challenges that currently exist in healthcare. She is the Chief Science Officer for Atos in their Digital Health Solutions division. Prior to her current role, she was the Managing Director of The Breakaway Group, A Xerox Company. She has served in research, development and information systems leadership roles. Her past roles have led to a unique mix of experience, including conducting rigorous research, leading development efforts based on research outcomes, and leading and developing top-performing teams. Haugen has more than 20 years of research experience in both the academic and private sectors. Her research and methodology is published in her latest book, Beyond Implementation: A Prescription for the Adoption of Healthcare Technology, which is the second edition and a National Bestseller. Dr. Haugen holds a faculty position at the University of Colorado Denver- Anschutz Medical Center as the Director of Health Information Technology, where she actively mentors doctoral students and teaches courses. She is also the author of Beyond Implementation: A Prescription for the Adoption of Healthcare Technology.

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