The healthcare industry has been among those at the fore when it comes to cloud adoption. It’s no wonder then that between 2020 and 2024, the global market is projected to see a rise of nearly US$25.54 billion in cloud technologies in this industry1. What has spurred healthcare to be one of the leading adopters of cloud technologies? The industry is inundated with data from multiple sources like doctor’s and nurses’ notes, electronic health records (EHR), personal health records (PHR), prescriptions, scans and imaging data, and intake forms.
This data is the foundation on which a healthcare facility that is looking to become a live enterprise by being connected, observable, sentient, alive, agile and innovative, stands. This data must be available to each and every authorized stakeholder within the healthcare facility’s network, in both clinical and non-clinical roles. And the one way a healthcare facility can make this data available at this scale effortlessly and seamlessly is by tapping into the cloud. Additionally, cloud technology adoption can help healthcare facilities achieve the cost-benefit that will allow them to offer improved access to care at lowered costs. The recent pandemic has only spurred the healthcare industry to adopt cloud faster and at a more widespread scale.
In what ways has cloud computing improved access to healthcare?
Telehealth Capabilities: Challenges like social distancing forced healthcare providers to look for options like telehealth as alternatives to traditional forms of interactions with patients. Telehealth has seen accelerated adoption – by nearly 2 years, according to a Frost & Sullivan report2. By allowing patients and doctors to connect remotely, over the internet, telehealth makes it possible for patients to access care without risking exposure to germs. Besides offering a safe alternative to care delivery, telehealth can also play a role in ensuring better care outcomes, fewer instances of readmission, and healthier patients. From enabling remote ophthalmology checks for diabetes patients to the monitoring of high-risk pregnancy cases, telehealth can be applied in several areas of healthcare.
Collaborative Decision-Making: With cloud computing, healthcare facilities will see a democratization of data. It will allow patients to take control over their wellness and healthcare outcomes to an extent. This is possible because it encourages patients to be active in their healthcare decisions. It moves them away from being passive recipients of care to active participants. It allows healthcare facilities to not only share healthcare-related information but also to educate patients about their condition. This means patients don’t have to go through the independent exercise of researching their condition and falling back on the information (most of the time incomplete or biased) that they find on the internet, to decide what course of action they want to pursue. When data is available on the cloud for patients and other authorized stakeholders, it allows them to collaborate effortlessly and efficiently.
Remote Patient Management: Many times, after a patient leaves a healthcare facility (after surgery, an ER visit, or a general consultation), they tend to stop adhering to treatment protocols. This could include taking the right medications at the right time or following a physical fitness regime or monitoring and tracking specific vital parameters. Cloud technology, when used alongside certified monitoring devices, allows healthcare facilities to know when patients deviate from the protocol and to communicate the right or corrective approach. In the long run, the more a patient adheres to the treatment protocols, the greater the likelihood that their condition will improve.
Besides utility, these cloud-enabled tools bring cost-effectiveness to the table, a key benefit that healthcare facilities can then pass on to patients by offering access to care at lower costs.
How does cloud computing help lower costs?
Typically, a healthcare facility that relies on a traditional data warehouse approach battles the requirements to maintain, update and run the infrastructure it relies on. This includes software, networks, hardware, disaster recovery systems, and security. And with each leap of growth that the facility takes, these needs also increase. Over time, it can create an unnecessary burden that healthcare facilities have to route their already draining finances, to overcome.
Now here’s where cloud computing can come to the rescue.
Most cloud computing solutions do not require healthcare facilities to purchase any extra equipment or supplies. In the traditional approach, a healthcare facility would have purchased the highest available hardware to be able to handle all requirements well into the future too. This meant that even before the maximum hardware was needed, the facility had paid for the maintenance and upkeep of all that hardware – a waste of precious resources. On the other hand, when a cloud service providers’ solution is availed, a healthcare facility essentially rents their equipment to meet the current needs, not the future ones. This means, facilities can move IT from a capital expenditure to operational expenditure.
Healthcare facilities face a lesser cost of power and generate a lesser carbon footprint with cloud computing. Maintaining the hardware that healthcare facilities acquire as part of the traditional approach, would require a significantly large amount of energy. And as the facility grows, more space and equipment will be required to address new needs. The energy needed for this generates a massive carbon footprint. When healthcare facilities move to the cloud, both the cost of power and carbon footprint decrease as the facility does not consume more than is needed. What’s more, with cloud-based solutions, facilities gain agility that allows them to save on costs.
For healthcare facilities, the key to unlocking the promise of cloud technologies is to partner with a cloud technology solution provider capable of strategically planning and deploying solutions that will work smartly, efficiently, and simply. A provider with a leading-edge suite of products and the expertise required to deploy them strategically will be able to ensure clients get the benefits they are looking for.
About Venky Ananth
Venky is an SVP and global head of Infosys’ Healthcare Industry Vertical. In this role, he is responsible for the profitable growth of Infosys’ Healthcare business. His responsibility straddles Infosys Healthcare strategy, market innovation, building high-performance teams, and managing critical relationships with senior client executives in the Healthcare industry.