Is cloud the best option for healthcare?

Posted by Karen on Nov 13, 2015 12:00:00 AM
In many ways, the healthcare industry is leading the way when it comes to innovative uses of technology. You only need to look at the applications of 3D printing to know that. But in other ways the industry has some catching up to do. This is especially true of the NHS, as it is held back with legacy systems and ever-reducing budgets to update its IT. For example, it is only in recent years that doctor’s surgeries began to introduce online booking for patients, and some still haven’t even done that. Electronic health records were first introduced a number of years ago, but despite the UK having the best pick up in Europe there is still a long way to go to hit the government’s deadline of 2018 for all patients to have compatible digital records, so their health information can be accessed by relevant health and social care workers. Fears around privacy have held back the adoption. Privacy concerns need to be taken seriously but shouldn’t stop the progress that will improve patient care. Storing patients’ digital records securely (and so they can be accessed by healthcare professionals as needed) is crucial to making the electronic health record a reality. Could cloud be the answer to drive things forward? At the Constellation Research Connection Enterprise conference in the US earlier this month, the adoption of more modern technology in healthcare was widely discussed, with some healthcare organisations stating that cloud was the best option.

Putting security first

In an interview with eWEEK, Shawn Wiora, CIO at Creative Solutions in Healthcare, said he was "putting every CIO and board of directors on notice that if they are not going to the cloud, they are doing a disservice to patients because no one can say they have better IT security infrastructure than the cloud providers. Their ability to attract and retain top security personnel is second to none."

Of course, when dealing with anything as sensitive as patient records, security must be the priority. Only a private cloud will win over sceptics. The British Medical Journal has increased its agility with a move to private cloud to test and deploy new applications it can deliver to healthcare staff around the UK. It opted for private over public because of the compliance requirements when working with the NHS. Head of architecture Jon Peterson told Cloud Pro: “The reason private cloud was of interest to us is that we do a significant amount of business with the NHS and they have a lot of particular requirements about how we connect to the private NHS backbone network.” As budgets continue to be squeezed, cloud also offers healthcare organisations the opportunity to significantly cut costs. Research from Kable found that the UK's healthcare sector is set to increase investment in cloud computing technologies by 7.7% over the next two years, more than any other technology. This increase is being driven by the need to reduce costs. If the healthcare industry continues to invest in cloud and the NHS also embraces its use, the industry could well meet the 2018 target for electronic health records.
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