6 Valuable Outcomes Cloud Technologies Offer Hospitals

Cloud technology or cloud computing — colloquially known as "the cloud" — has received a lot of attention in the healthcare industry lately. Cloud technology may leave some healthcare professionals uncertain about its benefits, including whether putting patient protected health information on the cloud is a good idea. However, cloud technology offers hospitals and physicians considerable benefits. As healthcare undergoes changes and transformations, it is important for hospitals to understand innovative technologies, which can help support a level and pace of change that may be increasingly required.

Here six healthcare professionals share their thoughts on the outcomes hospitals stand to experience with cloud technology.

1. Advanced data capabilities to inform innovative strategies.
According to Qasim Hussain, principal of X By 2, a consulting firm in Farmington Hills, Mich., informatics and cloud technologies will be the foundation of a provider's ability to explore innovative strategies in payment incentives and patient engagement.

"The key to this progression will be data mastery — the ability to effectively aggregate, analyze and make information actionable," says Mr. Hussain. Data mastery helps providers pinpoint systemic improvements in care processes and measure their effectiveness and value add.

"When providers work with health plans to integrate with analytical engines such as HEDIS, which provide industry-standard best practice metrics for measuring a person's health, providers will be able to more thoroughly evaluate a person's health experience," says Mr. Hussain.

2. More immediate implementation and operational outcomes.
According to Deanie Pearcy, BS, AS, clinical consultant for Parallon Business Solutions, a cloud-based approach provides hospitals with a winning combination of rapid implementation, minimal learning curve for providers, and immediate access to analytics that provided valuable insight into operations. Ms. Pearcy has been a project manager for multiple electronic health record implementations at 22 hospitals within two HCA divisions; therefore, she has had the opportunity to compare cloud-based solutions with traditional server-based implementations.

"I found several benefits to the cloud-based approach. The benefits were: The time from contract signing to go-live was a record eight weeks for EHR implementations; the project required extremely limited IT time and resources as there was no local hardware to install or manage; the learning curve for physician users was fast, in part due to the cloud-based, intuitive web user interface," says Ms. Pearcy.

3. Better care coordination and delivery. "[Cloud technology] allows for improved care coordination because employees at healthcare systems will have real-time access to patients' clinical data across providers, which during medical emergencies, is critical for optimal care," says Jonathan Samples, executive vice president of research and development for Greenway Medical Technologies.

Cloud technologies provide healthcare systems with the ability to advance care coordination and improve business analytics, which leads to improved delivery of care across healthcare communities. Transferring to cloud computing also allows healthcare systems to reap real, positive economic benefits.

"Various electronic systems can be implemented with little to no capital investment or IT infrastructure, allowing for patient data to be accessed across entire healthcare communities using one single access point. This leads to lower operating costs for healthcare systems," says Mr. Samples.

4. Cost-effective HIT infrastructure. Software "in the cloud" — i.e. on remote servers not owned by the hospital — enables hospitals to purchase their software as a metered service, rather than as a fixed cost, enabling more cost-effective HIT infrastructure, according to Adam Powell, PhD, partner and president of Payer+Provider, a healthcare consulting firm, which provides economic consulting to healthcare organizations,

"The transformation of HIT from a locally absorbed fixed cost into a shared, metered, variable cost will enable IT infrastructure to be available to providers who previously could not afford it," says Dr. Powell.

5. Less burden from HIT infrastructure. By moving to the cloud, the burden of buying, building and maintaining infrastructure becomes a non-issue, says Ali Din, CMO of dinCloud, a cloud transformation company helping organizations to migrate health information to cloud servers.

"It can take up a lot of time for a clinic or practice to deal with all the health information requirements. There is enough work to be done handling the data — let alone the means by how to achieve it. With cloud technology, the medical community can simply back up images to a secondary, secure site in the cloud. Or take existing applications and move them into a secure desktop that is running in the cloud, accessible from multiple devices," says Mr. Din.

6. Streamlined HIT delivery.
The private cloud is a huge opportunity for hospitals to streamline the delivery of IT services. According to Ruby Raley, director of healthcare solutions for Axway, a software company providing organizations with solutions to integrate, manage, secure and govern business-critical interactions, a private cloud platform enables hospitals to incorporate the use of electronic health records with mobile devices, providing physicians greater access to critical data throughout the hospital.

Mrs. Raley adds that hospital CIOs need to monitor security for new technologies closely. "It is imperative to discuss essentials, such as secure email, authentication, protected data storage and clear business agreements with vendors, to leverage the best of the private cloud — secure access to data, improved efficiencies and cost-savings," says Mrs. Raley.

More Articles on Cloud Computing:

5 Care Improvements Hospitals Experience With SaaS, Cloud Computing
Creating Clarity Around the Cloud: A Healthcare Transformation Forecast
10 Best Practices for Choosing a Cloud Storage Partner

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