John Pientka

CALLING DOCTOR CLOUD, CALLING DOCTOR CLOUD!

Medical Technology

Listen: THUMP-thump, THUMP-thump. No, it’s not your heartbeat but the new rhythm of healthcare IT: the Cloud. Even in this most conservative (and can we say, a bit laggard) of fields in taking advantage of processes and technologies that long ago the rest of the world has adopted, even in healthcare cloud is making increasing and in some cases dramatic inroads. This all spells good news for patients.

We have all been there – a dimly lit institutional room with pushed back drapes that hang from the ceiling. Muffled voices and carts of some sort echo from the corridor beyond the extra wide closed door. In the room, the steady click and soft whir of pumps and the soft beeps of monitoring machines provide a back drop to your friend, loved one or even you lying still on the hospital bed.

Modern medicine is saturated with technology that monitors our vitals; feeds us a steady stream of life-giving and pain preventing medicines, and can even keep us breathing. These clinical devices generate an incredible stream of information. And we do mean incredible: in the first day of a newborn’s life he/she generates 70 times more information than contained in the Library of Congress (think photos, sonograms, fetal monitors, medical records, etc.). Unfortunately, most of these devices are digital islands spewing their data into separate summaries for humans to labor intensively and error prone “eyeball integration”.

Then there is the administrative side of healthcare: billing for every individual band-aid and service used under a complex set of 68 to 76 thousand codes. These are the make or break for the success of the modern healthcare entity. Get them correct and you survive, maybe even prosper. Get them wrong – well, enough said.

Into this resource constrained environment comes the cloud with all its cost effectiveness and agility that has driven its adoption in so many other areas. A 2016 HIMSS (Health Information and Management Systems Society) recent survey shows that an increasing number of healthcare entities are adopting cloud.

Here are the Key Takeaways from the 2016 Healthcare Cloud Survey:

  • The tipping point is here, planned usage of cloud for 5 key use cases increased 65% between 2014 and 2016.
  • Organizations are aggressively using or planning to move to cloud to access compute cycles for big data analytics (59%), to host patient empowerment tools (73%) and to satisfy business requirements like PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System, i.e. medical images) storage (55%); providers are leveraging cloud for PHI (Protected Health Information) and non-PHI impacting applications.
  • Ten cloud adoption motivators ranked highly; cost efficiencies, robust disaster recovery solutions and the need for more scalable platforms came in at the top.
  • Organizations understand the importance of secure, private cloud connectivity; 77% of respondents involve their network provider early on in strategy discussions.
  • Microsoft Azure, AWS & Google are all recognized as industry leaders for Cloud Services within healthcare.

Again following a similar pattern in other industries, back office; administrative functions are being converted first, especially to SaaS (Software as a Service) offerings like email, collaboration tools, etc.

Beyond the traditional back office – what’s striking and key here is the clinical option cloud opens up for big data analytics in medicine (second bullet above). An exciting new area requiring massive computing power that cloud can supply extremely cost effectively. The era of genomic medicine is ever closer due to the cloud.

Likewise, similar to other areas there are the natural concerns about security. According to recent report from Skyhigh Networks, the average healthcare organization uses 928 cloud services. The report goes on to note; the average healthcare employee uses 26 cloud services during the course of a day. Unfortunately, a lot of this is “Shadow IT” of which the health care IT management is often not even aware. Worse, 93% of these apps are medium to high risk. The cloud is just too good to pass up but IT organizations in healthcare need to take a page from their brethren in other fields on how to manage both the opportunity and the pitfalls.

So it looks like we are at a tipping point in health care’s adoption of the cloud. Imagine when you will be sitting (of laying) in that room as an empowered patient and you can pull up the health status, meds prescribed, etc. on your tablet. After all, this is what has happened in so many other industries when cloud came a knocking. The result was more power to the consumer. Why should it be any different in healthcare?

By John Pientka

(Originally published Aug 5th, 2016. You can periodically read John’s syndicated articles here on CloudTweaks. Contact us for more information on our programs)

John Pientka

John is currently the principal of Pientka and Associates which specializes in IT and Cloud Computing.

Over the years John has been vice president at CGI Federal, where he lead their cloud computing division. He founded and served as CEO of GigEpath, which provided communication solutions to major corporations. He has also served as president of British Telecom’s outsourcing arm Syncordia, vice president and general manager of a division at Motorola.

John has earned his M.B.A. from Harvard University as well as a bachelor’s degree from the State University in Buffalo, New York.

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