By Garima Srivastava, Executive Director, Enterprise Business and Web Systems, Stanford Children’s Health
Technological disruption is transforming every aspect of the future of healthcare. COVID-19 emphasized the need for this digital world much more than ever. Social distancing and hygiene requirements forced hospitals and other providers to speed up their adoption of transformative technologies. Whether they were ready or not, organizations spanning every industry and size were forced over the last two years to fully embrace digital transformation. Virtual care delivery is persisting at exponentially higher adoption rates than pre-pandemic levels, and remote monitoring as well as digital diagnostics and therapeutics continue to gain attention and investment. As a consequence of the world’s digitalization, customer behavior is changing which also highlights why organizations need to evolve and adapt to this digital environment.
To compete and succeed amid ongoing uncertainty and rapid change, provide an enhanced patient/consumer experience, and bring added value, healthcare organizations are focused on building “digital-first” business models. In addition, CEOs across healthcare sectors are evangelizing digital and innovative initiatives as strategic imperatives to seize the opportunities of disruption, create added value, and deliver new growth.
Cloud Computing has become the catalyst for digital transformation.
The Cloud-enabled business model helps organizations simplify IT infrastructure and focus more on digital transformation. It gives access to the ‘Everything-as-a-service’ model, utilizing multiple automation processes to build a customer-centric system. As these models become more prevalent, humans will work alongside automation to boost their cognitive abilities and skills.
Quick, on-demand access to reliable, scalable, and flexible technologies and IT infrastructure are the imperative requirements for digitization in any organization. Self-hosted on-prem solutions can be considered organization-controlled but involve time and money to scale up for business growth.
Implementing Cloud Computing solutions may be pretty straightforward. However, migrating without proper planning, preparation and governance can be disastrous.
Integrating new forms of technologies fast tracks automation and improves patient care. AI, ML, Big Data Analytics, and IoT are key components of such new solutions. Considering that these technologies require heavy computational power and storage space, Cloud Computing is the ideal solution to integrate and optimize these technologies and make them more scalable.
Benefits of Cloud Computing which empowers digital transformation
- Agility, Flexibility, Scalability and Efficiency
Healthcare is in constant need of continuous innovation, testing, and implementation to drive digital transformation.
Cloud Computing is a key enabler for agile innovation. It offers agility by providing platforms and Computing resources where we can rapidly build, test, and deploy apps throughout the transformation phase to enable business growth and meet patient care and access needs, without a need for complex on-premise infrastructure that requires investment, time and IT resources to set up. It further helps to eliminate the need to maintain and upgrade systems and also solves compatibility issues between different types of infrastructure.
Cloud Computing enables enterprises to quickly respond to customer needs, eliminating the problem of IT systems overload or over-provisioning.
Enterprise storage solutions impose limits on the data capacity. Expansion is expensive, both for infrastructure and IT resources. However, Cloud-based storage in healthcare provides greater flexibility. It is a pay-as-you-go subscription-based model. It allows organizations to scale up or down quickly to meet demand.
- Integrated Solution
Cloud Computing enables organizations to access, retrieve, and process information at any time, from any place, ensuring efficient collaboration and improved productivity without restrictions and geographical boundaries.
Healthcare may constantly face the risk of losing critical information (including PHI) due to unexpected system shutdowns, data breaches, etc. Furthermore, in the case of AI-driven big data analysis, the chances of system failure increase considerably due to Computing and storage constraints.
Cloud solutions are built to comply with the increasing high level of privacy standards and threat protection postures, including compliance to HIPAA and GDPR. This enables organizations to create multiple defenses for data protection. It can be as good as on-premises solutions and sometimes when properly configured, it might even provide better security.
Despite Cloud Computing’s advantage and its enablement of digitization, significant challenges of Cloud Computing in healthcare include user misunderstanding or distrust of provided security and privacy, organizational barriers, loss of data governance, and poor safety standards. The use of Cloud Computing raises many legal issues such as local contract laws, IP rights, data jurisdiction, and privacy.
Migrating to Cloud for the organization is not a one-off decision that should be made in isolation. Cloud migration has company-wide, short-term and long-term implications. Implementing Cloud Computing solutions may be pretty straightforward. However, migrating without proper planning, preparation and governance can be disastrous.
Any organization can speed up their digital transformation by adopting Cloud solutions if they consider the following:
When considering Cloud solutions, organizations need to have a clear understanding of the business goals they will achieve and the alignment with strategic growth. For example, they should know whether technologies supported by the Cloud are compatible with systems and applications already being used in the organization, including legacy solutions.
Cloud Computing Security Concerns
Every organization is responsible for its patients, payers and their own confidential and valuable data. Therefore, they must be confident that their data is secure and know where and how it is being shared. PHI and PII data security is the primary concern for healthcare. Therefore, before adopting Cloud solutions, organizations must prepare their security and firewalls to guarantee the safety of their data. Cloud is secure, but it must be used correctly.
Different Cloud solutions like IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS provide ease of use, cost savings, and innovative features. Typically, they offer users a free trial account. Due to this flexibility, any organization may buy Cloud solutions without centralized IT control. Moving to the Cloud can save money, but this is not automatic. Therefore, strong governance in the organization is key for the selection and use of Cloud applications to avoid having siloed systems and risks.
In summary, one thing we can count on is that the Cloud has proven itself as a valuable tool and will be integral to all modern healthcare must-dos.