The global healthcare industry is facing a changing world and new pressures because of the unprecedented COVID pandemic. The strain on hospital systems and staff has risen to a level never seen before (at least not simultaneously across the entire planet). The need to adopt new technologies to ease the burden of medical institutions and doctors is now undeniable. Cloud medical software, artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT solutions, and other technology could be the savior of hospitals around the globe. Speed, efficiency, and new analytical capabilities may be the tools of support provided by cloud medical software for healthcare.
According to Forbes and Healthcare IT News, over half of medical industry players considered integrating cloud technologies in 2019: surveys showed that 53% of all healthcare institutions saw cloud computing solutions as a strategic priority. These numbers are sure to have risen in the dire circumstances of a worldwide epidemic.
At the same time, as Deloitte's data for 2019 shows, global life expectancy continues to rise, increasing the number of elderly patients (up to 29% in Japan and 22% in Europe) in need of monitoring and expedient care offered by digital technologies.
Which leads us to an important question in the current health-sensitive global climate: What is cloud based computing and how can it benefit healthcare?
Here are just some of the major advantages of this technology:
- Improving the quality of patient care through speed and efficiency
- Lowering expenses by reducing staff demands
- Remote medical assistance, administration, and health planning (aka “telemedicine”)
- Better diagnostics and hospital optimization
- Easy integration and data exchange between various medical systems
- Easy patient access to their own information
- Physical and virtual security, including anti-counterfeit measures and cybersecurity
Let’s take a look at these benefits in more detail by delving into the intricacies of medical care and management.
Integrated cloud solutions reduce staffing requirements and improve the quality and speed of data analysis in healthcare institutions, which lowers costs while improving care. “What is cloud computing?” Powerful data storage and processing power on-demand. Document processing with cloud computing reduces human staff needed to fill out, analyze, and file medical documents. The saved time and money are devoted to better patient care and further technological investments. Cloud computing also greatly speeds up the analysis and transfer of data: diagnoses, exam results, patient transfer orders, and other medical information is delivered faster and more efficiently and reliably.
Remote medical assistance, including telehealth and telemedicine, is the next frontier in improving healthcare worldwide. Similar to how education has pivoted into the online/cloud space with “conference-lessons,” medicine will transition into digital diagnosis, and consultation and treatment over video-conference. Physicians and hospital administrative staff are already interacting with patients remotely when possible; the future could bring a new level of remote care and health planning. Imagine doing 90% of your medical interactions through an app that accesses your records in an integrated cloud database. All questions answered and all procedures and medicine prescribed remotely. Visits to the hospital will be short and to the point, reserved for pre-agreed procedures with no time wasted.
Cloud-based computing already boosts diagnostic power and hospital optimization in some settings. Huge strides have been made in using AI for cancer diagnostics (as shown by the case from neuropathologist Matija Snuderl of New York University) and other diseases. Cloud technologies could offer doctors easy access to such tools; one keystroke and the power of machine learning diagnostics could be at your fingertips. While nothing in the foreseeable future can outstrip the intuition and knowledge of an experienced doctor, machine learning and cloud tech can provide redundancies for human error, and lack of time and attention.
Cloud computing solutions also provide easy integration between various databases, systems and services within healthcare institutions. An authorized nurse or doctor can quickly and easily check a patient’s medical exam results or surgical history from another hospital to promptly determine the best course of treatment. In contrast, getting medical records via old-school “paper” methods can take weeks due to red tape and communication problems. Cloud-based systems also give patients more control of their own records.
And this is just a brief overview of what digitized healthcare can offer. Other services include anti-counterfeit systems for controlling prescription drugs, quick response systems for monitoring elderly and at-risk patients, and much more.
“Cloud computing offers a fast path to get telehealth systems up and running. The cloud allows for the petabytes of storage that will be needed for images while providing the ability to build and deploy systems that will extend a clinician's reach to remote locations with an internet connection or a cell signal.”
— David Linthicum, Chief Cloud Strategy Officer, Deloitte Consulting
AI, Machine Learning, and Cloud Medical Software: New Possibilities in Healthcare
Cloud technologies also open the door to more experimental and advanced tech that solves age-old problems. So, what possibilities could be unlocked in medicine when cloud medical software and machine learning are combined?
As mentioned above, AI provides highly accurate cancer diagnostics when coupled with the knowledge of a doctor, and the range of diseases AI/ML can identify is expanding. Research from the University of Sheffield outlines how artificial intelligence can greatly improve diagnosing Alzheimer's, an extremely difficult-to-treat disorder that is projected to impact 115 million people by 2050.
Another example of the amazing powers of AI and ML in healthcare was recently highlighted by a paper from the Stanford School of Engineering which lays out the concept of “ambient intelligence” that could improve the chances of up to 400,000 Americans that die each year from medical errors.
Ambient intelligence is simple in concept, but complex in technological implementation: a system of sensors monitored by AI and installed throughout a medical institution to create a smart hospital. AI powered by cloud medical software can notice things missed by overworked and sleep-deprived medical staff.
Sensor networks backed by cloud computing solutions and machine learning can also assist medical and surgical staff: even the best surgeon or physician may forget to adequately sanitize his or her hands when entering a room if they’ve worked a 24-hour shift. With sensors watching these small details, the “smart hospital ecosystem” will always alert staff that an irregularity is occurring. Similarly, ambient intelligence can catch errors in medical forms and documents.
AI/ML solutions are a failsafe against mistakes, inaccuracies, tired workers, and organizational bureaucracy; bureaucracy is never pleasant, but in healthcare it can cause actual medical harm.
Arnold Milstein, a professor of medicine and director of Stanford’s Clinical Excellence Research Center (CERC) explains how technology (an example of which is AI-powered sensors, backed up by cloud-based medical systems) can ease the incredible strain on medical facilities: “We are in a foot race with the complexity of bedside care. By one recent count, clinicians in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit took 600 bedside actions, per patient, per day. Without technology assistance, perfect execution of this volume of complex actions is well beyond what is reasonable to expect of even the most conscientious clinical teams.”
Cloud Medical Software for Healthcare Organizations: Options and Implementation
The goal of integrating new digital tech into medical institutions is improving patient care at all stages: onboarding, data collection and secure storage, medical care and diagnostics, as well as post-hospital support.
Cloud medical software for healthcare institutions can take on a variety of forms: apps for holistic health evaluation, optimized medical call centers for easy patient communication, comprehensive databases for doctors to quickly access medical data, and more.
In practical implementation, the digital transformation process can arm nearly any healthcare organization with the following tools:
- Real-time data science for medical and management needs
- Chat-bots for streamlined client/patient requests and interactions
- Neural networks and image recognition for diagnostics and other needs
- Voice technology for communication and security
- Cloud migration and/or digitization of legacy data
- On-demand data analytics and much more
“Cloud technologies are the next big step in healthcare. If applied and developed correctly, cloud technology could bring as much positive change as the invention of ECGs, computerized tomography, or MRIs. None of these innovations replaced human specialists; in fact, they created new jobs. It’s all about using custom software development solutions to empower human expertise and improve patient-doctor interactions. Cloud medical software offers us a win-win scenario: healthcare organizations save money, medical professionals work more effectively and suffer less stress, and patients live better lives.”
— Vlad Medvedovsky at Proxet software company.
How to Use Cloud Solutions in Healthcare Organizations: Top 3 Insights
The keys to successful digital transformation and migration to the cloud are correct planning and an understanding of the pitfalls. You may be considering web based cloud services for telemedicine, apps for efficient patient care, chat-bots or automated call centers for better client communications…all of these are valid ways to elevate your medical organization/business above its present circumstances (or your competitors). However, success depends upon knowing what to avoid and what to pay attention to.
So, let’s discuss the most notable challenges and considerations when using cloud solutions in healthcare:
- Choose a method of implementation or service provider that emphasizes data security. Patient records are inherently sensitive information. Cloud-hosted systems have to be built by specialists with expertise in keeping sensitive data secure against technical accidents and malicious attacks.
- Regulation and compliance. Make sure you are aware of data-related legislation like GDPR or HIPAA that was designed by regional and national governments to protect consumers on the web. Ideally, your software integration partner should help you with this on the technical side.
- Prepare your organization for a new operational regime. Technical systems like cloud hosting may have different downtimes and failure conditions than legacy (“pen and paper”) systems do. Reliable software partners adhere to the best practices in accounting for extreme circumstances, but you should prepare your administrative staff and infrastructure for the new digital reality with training and onboarding.
Proxet is focused on giving healthcare providers the best digital transformation experience possible: our developers, engineers and managers create a customized approach for each and every client. Covering a vast array of cloud technology and data-related capabilities, we provide tools ranging from fundamental cloud software to cutting-edge tech like AI and ML for your most advanced needs. Working with us means being prepared for the future.