Although the healthcare sector has been slower on the uptake of technology developments like the cloud, the enormous benefits this offers are now beginning to be realised.
While the adoption of technology, particularly the cloud, has been slower in the healthcare sector than in some other industries, we have reached the point where without technology, it would be virtually impossible to run a modern practice. The Internet, together with high speed hardware, is essential in any practice today.
When it comes to the cloud, healthcare providers have no choice but to embrace this in some form or another, particularly since it offers them not only the business imperative of cutting costs, but is also ideally positioned to assist professionals in improving the quality of care they deliver.
One only has to consider how modern healthcare professionals are faced with a multitude of rules and regulations that can more easily be managed by technology, such as billing software and switching tools. A good example is the thousands of unique tariffs that are presented to practices from various medical schemes and administrators. Each scheme has a unique set of rules and guidelines, so if there is no software to assist in controlling and collating exactly what is what, it becomes extremely difficult to run a profitable practice.
Then, of course, when one considers the efficiency perspective, technology makes the capturing and storing of health records easy, while it is also much simpler to capture clinical notes during a consultation. At the same time, it makes billing for the service easier and more accurate – particularly when one realises that everything is attributed its own code, and there are strict rules from schemes around what can and can’t be charged for.
And these are just the first steps on the healthcare cloud journey. We live in an era where everyone wants everything as rapidly and as simply as possible. Think about how modern consumers interact with their banks using a smartphone app, instead of visiting a branch – today’s patients will equally want to use an app to make an appointment, find out test results or just perhaps interact with their doctor via a web chat.
Uptake or not?
Although cloud computing has been around in the healthcare sector for some time, many practitioners remain wary of taking their data into the cloud. Nonetheless, while there has been some resistance to the full-fledged adoption of technology and the move to the cloud, we have reached the stage where it is no longer simply a ‘nice-to-have’.
We are now at the point where the ride is starting in earnest, and you either climb on board or you get left behind. Technology and the cloud is now starting to drive the manner in which processes – like consultation – should take place.
Of course, while patients may be demanding that their medical providers and practitioners adopt more technologically advanced ways of providing services, it must be remembered that their doctors are healthcare professionals, not techies. Thus, any solution or application that is developed needs to be simple and easy to use for both providers and patients. If the technology industry expects healthcare to adopt the cloud and its applications on a broad scale, the technologists need to put themselves in the mind-set of the users and build apps that are friendly and easy to use.
Fortunately, most modern applications do tend to be intuitive solutions that are built with the user specifically in mind, so these are tools that make the process of capturing and accessing information simple, because the doctor has been placed at the centre of the design.
Changing the game
There can be little doubt that while adoption rates are not yet that high, the cloud is set to be a major game changer. Already, we are seeing cloud applications replacing local desktop ones, eliminating not only the need to have someone available to maintain the desktop, but also reducing the potential for malware or ransomware to become a threat.
The data itself is centralised, in a data centre protected by world class security, and medical practices no longer need local infrastructure – just decent connectivity and devices that connect to the Internet, and they can access their data from anywhere. This, in turn, means that busy practitioners can choose to work from the quiet of their home after hours, should they so desire, or anywhere else, for that matter.
Moreover, as the cloud becomes standardised, so we will reach the point where, in a situation where a patient is on vacation and has to visit a new doctor, that practitioner can easily access any relevant information about the patient from their usual GP, in a quick and secure manner, thanks to the cloud. This will reduce effort (fewer forms to be filled in by the patient) and increase the speed of treatment.
Yet another enormous benefit the cloud has for medical practitioners is that it frees them from the burden of operational expenses. In the past, any practice required not only back-end operational infrastructure, but also the additional personnel to run it. Practitioners would most often need to form a practice with several other doctors, in order to make such expenses more affordable.
Today, however, the cloud has all but eliminated the requirement for back room staff and infrastructure, providing individual practitioners with a greater level of independence. Best of all, we are only scratching the surface of what the cloud might offer the healthcare sector. There is a lot of really exciting stuff in the pipeline, such as big data and analytics, which can help to extract deeper, more granular information. Analytics is, in fact, a huge growth area in terms of the insights it can provide not only around patients, but also the data it can deliver to medical schemes, administrators and other key parties in the industry.
As we move further on down this road, we can expect to see computing becoming even more powerful, which will offer benefits like enabling doctors to conduct genomic sequencing via the cloud. This, in turn, is expected to open up even greater options for solving patients issues more quickly and accurately.
Thanks to cloud technology, it is safe to say that the future has arrived, and the healthcare industry is only going to be the better for it.