By: Rasu Shrestha MD MBA
Despite all the hype, despite all the confusion, and despite all the greyness of a mucky topic rife with questions about security, reliability, cost, and performance – the reality is that if you think about some of the basic fundamentals of what one should expect out of healthcare services, it’s a wonder that we’ve taken this long to embrace the power of cloud computing.
Consider this analogy for a minute. You have a checking account in a bank somewhere. Imagine having to always go to just that one branch of the bank each and every time you want to withdraw some money, or perform any financial transaction – including even if all you just want to do is to check on your ‘financial health.’ How restrictive would that be?
Indeed, in today’s environment, this would be unimaginable. One does not have to think twice about using one’s bank ATM card, literally from any location, anywhere in the world. Indeed, you can deposit checks using your smartphone today. You can check your balance and every detail of your transactions online, again from anywhere, and today, almost from any device. You can use financial management tools, such as Quicken and Mint.com, to manage and track your financial wellbeing, aggregate data from multiple financial accounts to a consolidated and meaningful view, and even run analytics on your aggregated data!
Yet, in healthcare today, patients are relegated to carry around CDs with their radiology images from one location to another. You show your health insurance card when you check into any healthcare institution or schedule an appointment, but your health information remains locked in silos of information systems in the actual institutions you get care from. So you have to repeat your health history all over again, including the medication you’re on, your history of past procedures if any, family history etc.
Would it not be great if your longitudinal care record was made available securely and instantly to any care provider, anywhere? If prior imaging studies were available to any one you were consulting with, whether an urgicare center you’d visited for a nagging cough or a tertiary care center where you were referred to for a specific workup?
From a care provider’s perspective, would it not be great for clinicians to have a more complete patient chart, truly at the point of care? Physicians often do not think twice about the systems behind the patient chart they are looking at on their screen, or the complexities of the information technology behind the imaging study they are reviewing on their workstation. Nor should they have to. But they do care deeply about clinical workflow, about system reliability and uptime, and about easier and seamless access to their patient’s data.
Healthcare has been slow to embrace the power of cloud computing. But there is a silver lining. Patients are beginning to value not just the quality of care, but the ease of access to care, and the added functionalities provided to them by their healthcare institutions. In this consumer driven age, that’s a force to be reckoned with. Clinicians are starting to demand greater reliability in their electronic health record systems too, and the message is reaching the hospital administrators and CIOs – who themselves are beginning to see the emergence of a breed of healthcare information technology solutions that embrace the cloud from ground up.
Change is coming. And efficiency and cost pressures, coupled with evidence of increasing reliability in these newer product offerings signal the emergence of wider spread adoption of cloud based enablers that really should be a no brainer. The convenience of not having to think twice about the complexities of the financial system when using your credit card to pay for that non-fat skimmed latte is coming to a healthcare institution nearby.