Healing the IT of healthcare with the cloud

Healing the IT of healthcare with the cloud
CenturyLink’s Judy Misbin discusses the cloud’s scalability, speed of deployment and maintenance

Elly Yates-Roberts |

This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox. 

All businesses need to make split-second decisions using the most recent data available. The ability to process data at lightning speed in most industries typically results in financial gain and market advantage.

In healthcare, the stakes are higher. In addition to improving patient care, healthcare must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and backed by the highest levels of security.

Getting medical results, diagnosing patients and determining the best course of treatment can mean the difference between life and death. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, diagnostic errors affect 12 million outpatient adults and contribute to 80,000 deaths in US hospitals every year. When errors are discovered, it’s critical for healthcare personnel to be able to communicate them quickly.

Every industry is moving at least some of their operations to the cloud. Cloud options offer distinct advantages over traditional on-premises data centres. Clouds are highly scalable, offer fast deployment, don’t require a lot of IT maintenance and have affordable, predictable costs. Those features make the cloud a great choice for healthcare. 

The lower upfront investment of a Microsoft Azure cloud-based infrastructure can drive new business models around wearable devices, mobile health and other eHealth services. These new cloud-related medical services, combined with more traditional electronic health records (EHR), also generate a lot of data. In total, the healthcare industry will generate more than 2,314 exabytes of data by 2020 to be exact. If you put all of that data on tablet computers, the stack would reach more than a third of the way to the moon.

The challenge facing the healthcare industry is making that data available in a form consumable by medical professionals at the moment of need. For example, emergency room doctors with the ability to access data on cardiac patients’ wearable devices could save more lives. Oncologists with current data on cancer patients taking a new drug could use that information to modify treatment plans more effectively.

Today, even with the US government’s heavy promotion of EHR adoption throughout the healthcare industry, data on individual patients is often scattered across different providers’ systems, which are not interoperable. The odds are good that a typical provider lacks a holistic view of a particular patient’s health records at any point in time.

To make this a reality requires the cloud, with its easy accessibility and ability to store and crunch vast amounts of data. Milliseconds matter in healthcare, and the cloud will deliver. 

Judy Misbin is director of Strategic Alliances (Microsoft) at CenturyLink

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