The healthcare sector is one of the most highly regulated and capital intensive industries. All over the globe, governments tend to subsidize this sector to make health an affordable proposition for the weaker segments of the society. It is a harsh reality that quality healthcare is prohibitively expensive almost everywhere.
Cloud Computing has brought about a major revolution in the way modern workloads are handled. When we analyze the healthcare sector as a whole, it is one of the most ideal deployment environments for a cloud infrastructure.
- Advantages & Disadvantages of Cloud Computing In HealthCare
- Benefits of Cloud Offerings for the Healthcare Industry
How Cloud is Bringing Efficiency in Health Care Industry?
In this post, we will try to highlight how the cloud can bring efficiency and ease in the health care domain.
To maximize outreach and cover the maximum population, hospitals tend to be located in very central locations across towns and cities. This means the land over which they are set up is really expensive. The other major preference for any hospital is to maximize the number of beds to serve more patients.
However, there is a major limitation to this goal which is support infrastructure. A sizeable component of this support architecture is IT related hardware. The hospital needs to spare physical space to accommodate this elaborate hardware. This in turn reduces the physical space for actual health care equipment.
If the same hospital deploys a cloud solution, it will no longer need to maintain its IT hardware on premise. The entire hardware will be the sole responsibility of the Cloud Service Provider (CSP), whether it’s procuring or maintaining that hardware in optimal working condition.
Technology in the health care industry evolves at a rapid pace. New and more effective equipment is constantly rolled out to offer better care to patients. This means that hospitals have to consistently spend millions of dollars, just to keep their health related equipment in line with the latest technology.
If all the IT hardware is also maintained on premise, this will imply additional burden on the hospital’s balance sheet in the form of more capital expenditure. Secondly, IT hardware becomes obsolete at a pace either equal to or greater than health related equipment.
This means spending valuable dollars on procuring IT equipment, despite the fact that a highly viable alternative is available in the form of cloud computing. If a hospital migrates to the cloud, it saves a sizeable chunk of capital expenses that can be channelized towards making the lives of patients much better.
The operating expenses of hospitals are also on the high side. To ensure quality care, hospitals have to go the extra mile to maintain proper heating and cooling all year round. On top of this burden, when we add the operating costs of IT hardware, things get even worse.
If you want to extract optimal performance from IT hardware, you have to maintain a proper temperature which requires heating or cooling. The hospital will also need an elaborate IT staff to configure and troubleshoot the on premise hardware. All this takes a toll on the operating expenses component of any hospital.
Once a hospital moves to the cloud, it no longer needs to spend on maintaining IT hardware or the IT support staff. The CSP will charge the hospital purely on a pay as you use model, which is both predictable and cost effective. With no data center to heat or cool, the component of expenses on utilities would also be considerably reduced.
This is a highly sensitive area of the healthcare industry. Hospitals are host to highly sensitive and personal health records of hundreds or thousands of patients. The health records of patients are also protected by very strong regulations in many countries across the world.
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No hospital can afford losing this critical data to any nefarious actor that can misuse it. In case of an on premise hardware, the sensitive data of patients is spread across many end point devices. These devices in turn are connected to the hospital’s central network.
If any such end point device falls in the wrong hands, it will firstly expose the entire medical records over that device. In extreme cases, the malicious actor may gain access to the hospital’s entire network using the vulnerable end point device and extract more valuable medical records.
This is not the case if the same hospital maintains its data over the cloud. Even if an endpoint device falls in the wrong hands, no data would be residing over the device itself. The infiltrator will also be unable to access any further data without passing through authentication protocols.
Cloud Service Providers (CSP) accord top priority to cyber security. All data is secured in their data centers behind very strong firewalls that do not allow uninvited guests into the cloud network. CSPs grant access to data only after a user has successfully passed multiple stages of authentication to thwart any infiltration.
Due to their sensitive nature, medical records are subject to strict government regulations. Any data breach or violation on the part of hospital can result in serious legal and penal action. If any such incident also comes to the public eye, it will adversely affect the reputation of the health care institution involved.
The data centers of most CSPs get independent, third party certifications for both physical and cyber security. These certifications greatly assist in providing regulatory cover when hospitals migrate to the cloud. Not only is patient’s data secure over the cloud but also enjoys regulatory cover.
The cloud brings ease of access for both health care providers and patients alike. Health consultants will have round the clock access to their patient’s latest condition and progress. Patients will be able to get the latest updates about their diagnostics and treatment roadmap.
This ease of access does not end here. This entire data is accessible from multiple device platforms such as smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop. All the user needs is an internet connection and a browser that will act as the user interface for accessing the cloud infrastructure.
Perhaps a defining characteristic of any cloud based solution is instant scalability. In an on premise architecture, a hospital will need to procure, configure and integrate new hardware to increase the capacity of the existing system. This is both costly and time consuming.
When the spiked workload subsides, the hospital is again stuck with additional hardware that is no more required. This is not the case if the hospital employs a cloud based solution. In times of high demand, the hospital can scale up the cloud solution in real time just by paying an additional usage fee.
Similarly, when the peak demand has been met, for instance in case of an outbreak, the hospital may not need the additionally procured resources. In that case, the hospital will simply scale the solution down to its requirement, which in turn will result in a reduction in the cloud usage fee.
Hospitals simply cannot afford any lapse in their IT infrastructure as the lives of people hang in the balance. IT hardware is prone to malfunction, which puts the lives of patients in grave danger. If a hospital uses the cloud, it no longer has to worry about failure of the core IT infrastructure.
Present cloud solutions are so reliable that some industry CSPs guarantee up to 99.8% availability, which is way better than most on premise IT hardware. Secondly, CSPs do not rely on a single source for serving their clients. They have a robust and scattered mechanism for Disaster Recover (DR).
In the event of any disruption in the services of a CSP from one particular site, the solution becomes available from a remote DR site. This can mean the difference between life and death for critically or seriously ill patients. The hospital also saves the expense of setting up a stand-alone DR site in case of on premise deployment.
In the field of health, there is vast amounts of historical data that can be used to extract valuable insights about diseases and how patients had responded to various treatments. This complex and multi factor analysis requires immense processing muscle which most hospitals would not like to invest in.
CSPs pack a lot of processing muscle in their vast data centers, purpose built for handling such heavy and complex workloads. The other great aspect of a cloud based solution is that all this processing might is offered at very affordable rates, which makes it an attractive proposition.
The opportunities that cloud computing holds for the healthcare industry are limitless. What’s important is that hospitals shun the traditional conservatism associated with cyber security of cloud solutions and embrace them. This will open new avenues for both healthcare providers as well as patients.