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Cloud technology is a hot topic of discussion for experts from diverse fields around the world. Yet it’s even more hotly debated within the healthcare sector these days. Keen interest in healthcare cloud computing, especially during the pandemic raging around the world, contributes to its rapid development. There’s a perfectly simple explanation for the explosive growth—if health facilities remained at the same level of development as before, treatment would resemble the one from the medical drama “The Knick.” 

Nobody should be under any illusion that cloud computing is a panacea for all misfortunes, yet the fact that it minimizes the possibility of inaccuracies in diagnoses with all its consequences is worth a lot. Cloud computing in healthcare is now being actively implemented in hospitals all over the world, thus helping to treat patients at a greater speed and solve doctor shortages. 

Before plunging into the details of healthcare cloud computing, it’s critical to unpack the main points underlying the technology basics and make out what is cloud computing in healthcare? Let’s start with the definition. To speak simply, this is the capability to host and access various services—for instance, physical or virtual servers, data storage, and apps—over the web. Given that every company has its own needs, it’s vital to get a grasp of the existing types of cloud computing to choose the ones that suit them best. Let’s take a cursory look at each of them.

Types of Cloud Computing Services

A doctor in the operating room with modern equipment concept

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) allows users to choose operating systems, data storage capacities, and network equipment. This service is scalable, flexible, and reliable. IaaS gives users the opportunity to acquire all the resources and infrastructures needed on the virtual platform. IaaS eliminates the need for a physical office, hardware, and infrastructure, which is great for a business. The world’s most famous ones are AWS EC2, Rackspace, Google Compute Engine (GCE), and Digital Ocean.

Platform as a service (PaaS) – as the name implies, PaaS is a platform for application development, maintenance, and management. This cloud computing service gives everything needed to deploy, run and manage web applications or services. In other words, PaaS enables users to quickly and easily develop and run their applications within concise durations. However, the service provider controls infrastructure and networks such as storage, flexibility, and scalability. Herewith, in-depth coding skills are not required because the platform would have made the template available, but if your solution needs customization of the platform’s option, you will need the help of seasoned engineers. Some great PaaS examples include Elastic Beanstalk, Heroku, Windows Azure (mostly used as PaaS), Force.com, OpenShift, and Apache Stratos.

Software as a service (SaaS) allows users to use the available software hosted in the cloud. After subscribing to the service—a free or paid plan—the service provider maintains and manages the service. This means the SaaS has a centralized management system. However, user information is kept and secured in the system, enabling service providers to offer necessary support and resources to organize, exploit, and retrieve the data for the intended purpose. Next time you encounter SaaS when carrying out your work with Google Workspace (formerly G Suite), Dropbox, Salesforce, Cisco WebEx, or SAP Concur, just keep in mind all of them are leading SaaS providers that are in high demand among users all over the world.

When having a rough idea of the technology and some examples, let’s move on and figure out what are the cloud computing healthcare benefits that cause more and more medical facilities to roll out this innovation to their workflows.

Benefits of Cloud Computing in Healthcare

There are several ways in which cloud computing can be beneficial to healthcare, which are:

A doctor in the operating room with modern equipment concept

Security

When it comes to today’s business world, the first thing that comes to mind is the necessity of providing full protection of users’ data. Now, when we’re deeply concerned about the security of our sensitive information, among which are healthcare records, the question arises—is it advisable to trust data to a third-party server?

The answer seems so obvious, and yet it’s not. If you do everything properly—for instance, deploy multi-factor authentication—cloud servers maintain a high level of security to protect sensitive data. Cloud-based apps create a more secure environment for healthcare companies, as leading providers continually update their services and check their systems to see if there are some vulnerabilities or suspicious activities that might threaten the security of users’ data. 

Additionally, when storing data on-premise, there’s no way of getting patients’ data back in case of fire or flood. By entrusting valuable information to cloud computing, no natural disasters could be as dangerous. Considering remote access and backup, data loss seems unlikely.

Hence, it becomes necessary to consider cloud computing in the healthcare industry as an actual and efficient option. Today, it’s a proven way to provide users with a series of security and risk management measures and features. It’s also a guarantee that users’ services are well monitored, thereby significantly reducing the risk of unauthorized or illegal data breaches. 

Cloud Storage in Healthcare

Have you ever thought about the amount of data concerning our medical records? Actually, it’s the immense amount of data, including doctor referrals and prescriptions, medical examination reports, treatment history, lab results, etc. The average person who works as a healthcare provider is unable to process and analyze a wealth of information, and hardly any in-house equipment, in turn, can keep it. This is where cloud storage solutions such as Microsoft, Dropbox, and Google, which comply with HIPAA and GDPR requirements, will come to the rescue. By means of this technology, health centers won’t get into trouble with storing patients’ data, herewith avoiding the extra costs of building and maintaining a physical server environment.

Fast Shipping of Medical Services

The year 2020 has taught us to realize the value of time and its consideration in the implementation of all activities. Time defines who would win in a fight with COVID, giving people chances to build vaccination centers and develop vaccines. In that race, cloud computing is a lifesaver that allows people to speed up delivering critical tech solutions faster. Let us give you another example for a better understanding. At a certain point, Speed Test, COVID test provider, felt the strong necessity for a cross-platform web app. All this is intended to reduce to a minimum the interactions between people. By means of Amazon Web Application services, the idea was implemented and even exceeded expectations, having complied with the demands of handling data.

All that sounds appealing, but why are there still facilities that have not adopted cloud computing into their healthcare systems yet? What is holding them up? Let’s discuss the answer below.

Challenges to the Adoption of Cloud Computing in Healthcare

It’s no secret there are privacy risks while storing data on a third-party server. Depending on the cyber security measures put in place, the server is vulnerable to hacking and tracking by cybercriminals. This is where disagreements could occur between those who support the idea to adopt cloud computing in healthcare and their vocal opponents.

Another significant barrier to the adoption is the expensive finances required for the development, application, and maintenance of the various categories of cloud computing. 

Succinctly, the six primary obstacles restricting the adoption of cloud computing in the healthcare industry include fear of:

  • Lack of security; 
  • High costs, complexity of development and implementation;
  • Legality issues;
  • Usefulness.

By weighing the pros and cons of cloud technologies, each health institution draws conclusions with respect to its own thoughts. For those who are still deep in thought of the innovation and ways of how it could be applied, the following list might clear this up.

Applications of Cloud Computing in Healthcare

A doctor in the operating room with modern equipment concept

Data Analytics

We have already referred to this before, yet that is precisely what justifies a resolve of many facilities to implement technology in healthcare. Healthcare uses cloud computing solutions for big data and artificial intelligence algorithms to resource information and helps doctors to understand medical conditions before treatment and make data-driven decisions faster. These capabilities offered by medical cloud computing services make it easier to maintain personal health, improve diagnostics, and achieve better case outcomes.

Client Related Services

With this, we mean telemedicine that allows doctors to meet patients virtually, which has been particularly valuable during the pandemic. Reducing human interactions, including those having infectious diseases, allows halting the spread of COVID-19 and saving sick people from having to come into hospitals. The term “long-distance” doesn’t take place in this case, as doctors have the ability to hold meetings remotely and prescribe methods of treatment and rehabilitation. 

Another important factor is a great synergy between the variety of services to support healthcare needs, like medical insurance, pharmaceuticals, hospital supply manufacturers, and payments. The interoperability allows the exchange of data smoothly and thereby enhances the efficiency of the process.

Integration and Optimized Collaboration

Healthcare centers can use cloud computing services to create remote access to medical information. It will enable professionals collaborating on medical cases to access a patient’s file records or documents from various locations in a system as an integrated service. With the computerization of medical records, there’s no need to create separate ones when visiting various doctors. Instead, a unified system will allow professionals to share patients’ medical history and get the results of previous interactions with other physicians. The result is accurate diagnosis and treatment in a shorter period of time. 

Let’s Draw Conclusions 

One still might think that no benefits are worth sacrificing the security of patients’ data—and we would agree with you, but that is not the case, given the problem raised could be dealt with by reliable solutions, developed by seasoned engineers and protected by precautionary measures. By choosing the right ones, many perks—like drops in costs, advanced analytics, and close collaboration between care teams—are behind you. For us, the terms “healthcare” and “cloud” have become indivisible and must be treated as such. 

So if you’re excited about the idea of improving healthcare with cloud technology, but you’re feeling stuck by a lack of knowledge of the matter, trust us. Our experts will assist with all queries you may have and find solutions that suit you best.

Telemedicine: How it Works and Benefits for Your Business
Natalie Tkachenko Healthcare Software Solutions Consultant at NIX

Natalie is a HIPAA-certified expert with high-grade knowledge in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries with 5+ years of experience. She helps CIOs, CTOs of medical organizations, and founders of agile healthtech startups get the most valuable tech solutions for fundamental digital reinforcement in patient care, automation of operational processes, and overall business progress.

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