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Healthcare finally warming to cloud technology

Brian Eastwood | Nov. 19, 2013
Ever the risk-averse industry, healthcare is finally beginning to trust cloud for the storage of protected health information. Experts credit better cloud security, dropping costs and the growing need for disparate organizations to share information. What's more, this only appears to be the tip of the healthcare cloud iceberg.

At the same time, a variety of external factors — meaningful use, the accountable care organization (ACO) model, the ICD-10 switch and the rise of mobile health — push healthcare organizations toward more integrated systems, Porter says.

The maturity of cloud computing makes it the right solution for this type of integration, says Dr. John Haughton, chief medical information officer for Covisint. This maturity comes in three forms, he adds: Technical, in the ability to move information among systems; business, as a means of establishing mire dynamic partnerships with other healthcare facilities, and clinical, in the form of team-based, collaborative care.

Achieving true collaboration, though, means going beyond the "island" EHR systems present at many healthcare organizations and making health IT systems interoperable. Cloud brokerage solutions can help, Haughton says.

The end result, Haughton says, is an ability to drill down into patient registries or outreach lists to better understand how, for example, a care team or even an individual physician is helping a patient who had suffered a heart attack get his or her blood pressure under control. The ensuing performance metrics give an organization insight, he says, into "what makes medical care better."

Future of Healthcare Cloud Mobile, Networked
Over time, Gaudet sees healthcare progressing from cloud infrastructure to cloud-based applications and services. Secure text messaging, in Imprivata's 24-month forecast, is especially poised for growth. "There's a real need for clinicians that they use at home to deliver better patient care," he says. It's much easier to adopt than, say, EHR technology, Gaudet adds, and it has an almost immediate impact on improving the patient experience.

Text messaging - not to mention the use of EHR systems and others clinical apps on a mobile device &mash; presents potential HIPAA privacy concerns. That's why Michael Byrnes, product marketing manager with boutique cloud provider Afore Solutions, sees a push toward virtual desktop infrastructure. A mobile device, then, is little more than a "pane of glass" into a hosted virtual desktop running on a server farm and protected with policy-based encryption technology.

As hospitals continue to engage with specialists, home health agencies, acute care facilities and other providers beyond their walls — as meaningful use and healthcare reform mandate — Porter says these individual clouds will be connected. This offers the potential to improve collaboration and interoperability (as Haughton hints) while improving the mobile experience (as Gaudet and Byrnes) and "supercharging innovation," she says.

"[The cloud] could end up mending the healthcare system that has let innovation pass it by," Porter says. "Clouds promise one of the most promising technologies to improve treatment costs."


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