Since cloud technology came to the forefront of IT infrastructure, there has been a huge shift in the usage of data in the healthcare industry. From consumption, storage and sharing, the cloud has truly revolutionised this sector, like so many others.
There is still some way to go, and as an industry, healthcare has historically been considered slower to adopt new IT than many of its contemporaries, but the move to cloud adoption is now well and truly underway.
In 2018, the NHS announced it was taking a ‘cloud first’ approach, and recent studies showed 35% of healthcare organisations housed more than 50% of their data or infrastructure in the cloud.
As initial concerns around patient data security and privacy are alleviated, the adoption of the cloud in healthcare is increasing. According to Global Market Insights, the worldwide healthcare cloud market is poised to surpass $55 billion by 2025.
Harnessing the potential of cloud computing offers the healthcare industry a great number of potential benefits, from improving efficiency and optimising workflows, to reducing the overall cost of their IT.
Healthcare providers have to deal with huge amounts of data. From medical records, to patient portals, to mobile applications and big data analytics, there is a constant stream of data from multiple sources that needs to be accessed, utilised and stored.
Previously, healthcare professionals relied upon physical records being sent via mail or fax between practices or departments. The cloud offers a single, centralised place to view or store patient information, allowing doctors to access vital information at the click of a button. This in turn can improve efficiency and the overall experience for patients.
With more healthcare facilities becoming cloud enabled, a wealth of medical data is accumulated. This can be accessed by researchers and other medical professionals to assess and improve the services and processes within the industry, again enabling improvements to patient care and public health.
The environment in which healthcare organisations operate, particularly public services such as the NHS, is constantly changing. They are required to adapt to advancements in technology and changes to models of care, changes to finances and budgets, and experience a breadth of external pressures from the industry itself, Government, and the public.
Before the cloud, constant reassessment and maintenance would have been necessary to adjust the IT environment to fit with these ever-changing requirements and demands. This not only required huge amounts of manpower, but also significant investment, and ultimately an inefficient solution that cannot be scaled back.
With a cloud solution, healthcare organisations can easily scale their environments to meet the aforementioned changes to operations, and a fluctuating demand in the face of public health emergencies such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Capacity and resources can be scaled up or down quickly and effectively, providing a cost-effective IT solution, which can always be aligned to operational requirements.
This leads us nicely into our next benefit; cost savings. As with any business decision, cost is an essential factor when deciding how to run an IT environment. With IT expenditure often making up a large proportion of budgets, it’s important to find the best cost model, and the cloud can often represent a huge cut to upfront hardware investment and on-going expenditures.
By moving away from on-premise infrastructure, the on-going cost of maintenance and hardware refreshes is removed and due to the massive economies of scale in cloud computing, healthcare organisations have the option to utilise the latest technologies on the market.
Another advantage to a cloud-enabled healthcare system is the ability to integrate emerging technologies surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into research and care. Data is fundamental to the success of these technologies, and as discussed earlier, the cloud provides a centralised access point for all of this data to be stored.
The healthcare industry processes huge amounts of data, and often this is complex and unstructured. AI and ML can help with the task of analysing all of this data, and help healthcare professionals and researchers access the relevant information quickly and effectively.
Research and development into these cutting-edge technologies continues to demonstrate that computers have the potential to predict outcomes and enhance the performance of the healthcare industry across a wide range of tasks and patient care. For example, 2018 saw the first approval for an AI diagnostic — a test for diabetic retinopathy, that produces a result without the need for human intervention. AI and ML are driving innovative transformation within the healthcare sector, all of which is underpinned by the cloud.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post. As always, if you have any questions regarding anything we’ve discussed, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Image credit: mamanamsai/envato.com
Matthew is Secura's content specialist, producing gripping, emotionally complex, edge of your seat, cloud hosting articles and videos.
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