In comparison to other sectors, the healthcare sector has not leveraged the cloud computing technology to enhance the operational effectiveness.
Healthcare systems depend on paper-based medical documents. Any data that are available in the digital form is not portable. This restricts information sharing between the healthcare stakeholders.
The usage of technology to facilitate care between patients and medical professionals is restricted. Key healthcare stakeholders have pushed for revamping healthcare IT (HIT) and cloud computing is a key architect of the modernization.
The healthcare sector is moving towards an information based delivery system. Cloud computing delivers the basic infrastructure that enables hospitals, medical personnel, insurance firms, and research institutes to access enhanced IT resources at a less capital investment.
Cloud computing provides the following technological benefits to the sector:
- Facilitates access to computing and mega storage facilities.
- Assists big data and the electronic health record (EHR).
- Ensures radiology images and genomic data offloading.
- Facilitates information sharing (EHRs) between approved medical practitioners and hospitals across multiple locations.
- Decreases the requirement for duplicate testing.
- Enhances the information monitoring competencies.
Healthcare information must be in compliance with security, confidentiality, and accessibility requirements among others. Therefore, cloud vendors must ensure these along with complying with government and industry regulations.
Contingencies related to interoperability of IT systems have been a barrier to penetration of cloud computing in the healthcare sector. However, healthcare stakeholders must identify the most appropriate application before transitioning to the cloud (clinical and nonclinical applications).
Clinical applications contain the following:
- EHRs, physician order entry, and software for imaging/pharmacy use.
Nonclinical applications contain the following:
- Revenue cycle management, automatic patient billing, cost accounting, payroll management, and claims management.
In several instances, the application type transitioning to the cloud would determine the cloud deployment model (private, public, and hybrid).
In the beginning, cloud deployments for clinical applications would be based on private/hybrid clouds (require exceptional security, privacy and availability). Nonclinical applications have excellent potential for public deployments, but must be evaluated properly.
Healthcare stakeholders must also look at a cloud service model (IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS) that suits their business needs. For instance, a SaaS – pay-per-use business model could be a viable economic prospect (small medical practitioners). This removes the need for IT personnel, while reducing capital expenditure related to the system hardware, the operating systems, and the software.
PaaS is a feasible alternative for mega healthcare institutions with the budget to establish their own cloud-based solutions.
IaaS provides a cost efficient turnkey solution (scalability with security, flexibility, defined service level agreements, built-in backup and data protection).
Healthcare providers must deliver enhanced patient care competencies along with concurrently restricting the healthcare cost enhancement. In spite of the critical benefits of using cloud computing, security, consistency, integration and data portability still remain the key bottlenecks.