Increasingly, healthcare providers are turning to cloud-based storage solutions, either for their own practice or via their EHR and other software hosted online. This provides flexibility, allowing them to work from multiple devices and locations, and offers enhanced services to patients as well, since so many functions are now available via cloud-hosted solutions. At the Cloud Computing Forum in Orlando last February, one provider noted that in the year 2000, about 90 percent of their organization’s software was on-premise, whereas today only 20 percent of new contracts are signed for on-site solutions. While legacy systems keep many providers from moving all their software services to the cloud, the number of services that staff can manage in the cloud continues to grow. On many fronts, collaboration and innovation are happening in ways never seen before.
One way the use of cloud-based applications has changed the game for healthcare providers is the ease with which partners around the world can communicate. Doctors can easily consult with colleagues in other countries in cost-effective ways via the Internet. And patients can communicate more easily with their healthcare providers, thanks to mobile devices and applications where they can share information in the cloud.
This ease of communication and empowerment of patients can lead to better outcomes for patients facing major challenges. One example is Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, which is using a tablet-based app and Microsoft Azure Cloud Services to track at-risk infants after they leave the hospital. Out of 68 patients, they tracked no mortalities after one year, where historically six to twelve mortalities would be expected in that time.
As more healthcare organizations transition to cloud-based services, new applications and tools are being introduced by vendors, giving providers more choices depending on their goals. In July, Microsoft announced it would be streamlining its Office 365 services to meet modern workplace demands. A new product called Azure Stack will allow hospitals to get started with cloud services but also keep the system and data on-site, giving a hybrid option for providers looking to move more infrastructure to the cloud.
Also this summer, Salesforce introduced two new features in Health Cloud. Empower allows providers to engage with teams and care for patients in clinical settings as well as their homes, using a variety of devices. Concurrent Care Plans will enable teams to collaborate better and use a variety of plans for patients.
These and other exciting innovations and partnerships open up a world of possibilities in healthcare, and can bring many practices and patients into the future. As with any new technology, security is of paramount concern when using the cloud to share data and interact with patients. The next blog post will address some of the questions that arise when healthcare providers engage with patients in the cloud and use the cloud as a crucial part of their infrastructure.