How Cloud Computing is Transforming the Healthcare Industry

Cloud computing is shifting the way healthcare providers deliver quality, affordable services to patients. In a few short years, the healthcare cloud has expanded from functioning as simple data storage to enabling cutting-edge research and AI-based innovations. 

Adopting cloud computing solutions can make healthcare operations more efficient and cost-effective. Cloud computing is enabling greater integration and collaboration between hospitals, medical organizations, and healthcare providers, addressing what was previously considered a largely fragmented and siloed industry. Dicom Systems is leveraging the healthcare cloud to advance healthcare interoperability. 

Cloud Computing Explained

Cloud computing, or “the cloud” as it’s often referred to, offers on-demand computing by using the latest in technology to deploy, access, and use networked information, applications, and resources. The cloud provides computing services over the internet, rather than via computer server networks housed on-premises.

Key services delivered by cloud computing are:

  • Servers
  • Storage
  • Databases
  • Networking
  • Software
  • Analytics
  • Intelligence

Combined, these cloud computing services act as an able replacement for the on-prem hard-wired option.

It is important to note that not all cloud computing offerings are the same, that is, a one-cloud-fits-all option does not exist. What may acceptable cloud computing protocols for the financial industry, for example, may not be useful to the healthcare profession.

The types of cloud computing options include:

  • Public cloud – A public cloud is a platform in which a service provider – a vendor – enables the use of resources such and storage, applications, virtual machines (aka VM), and more, to a variety of enterprises. The cost  for public cloud services may be through a subscription for the services, an on-demand arrangement, or other accommodation.
  • Private cloud – As its name would indicate, a private cloud is used by one entity and the services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network or system. The private cloud option could be located on-prem at a datacenter or it may make senses to pay to have these services hosted by an outside vendor.
  • Hybrid – Again, the name is the reveal. Hybrid clouds combine assets of the private and public option to allow sharing of information and applications.

Benefits of Storing Patient Data in the Cloud

Cloud data storage options have become more widely adopted in healthcare over the past several years, as potential concerns about storing date “off-premise” have been addressed. As organizations adopt mobile applications, storing clinical data in the cloud provides users more complete access.

The benefits of storing patient data in the clouds include:

  1. Enhanced security – As new levels of improved security are developed, cloud-based patient data storage is subject to continuous improvements with little or no disruption to the access of information.
  2. Scalability – With a traditional model patient storage is fixed and there may often be instances of unused capacity. Cloud storage, however, can quickly adapt to the latest needs so as the patient data increases or shrinks, cloud storage adjusts accordingly. For the enterprise on a pay-as-you-go arrangement with their vendor, this can mean considerable savings because it ensures that the storage capability is always at an optimum level.
  3. Reduced IT costs – While the cloud model won’t eliminate IT overhead, storing patient data in the cloud through the private model means that there is a potentially significant reduction in the size of the IT staff as these responsibilities have been transferred to the vendor. And depending on the private model agreement, upgrades and maintenance – formerly the domain of the on-prem IT department, may be included in the scope of services.
  4. Availability & Reliability – on-prem data storage may be vulnerable to power outages, bringing the operations to a halt in the event of a natural disaster. In the cloud, data is safe and secure, with recurring power and backup power sources built in to the system.
  5. Access – For those with a need to know, access to patient data stored on a cloud platform is a dream come true. Gone is the traditional work station, replaced by any computer or mobile device, anywhere there is Internet access, 24/7/365.
  6. Addresses the unknown – Anyone who has been active in the healthcare profession for even a short period of time knows that change in protocols for patient data storage is constant. The new way of doing things is always just around the corner. Cloud computing eliminates the adjustments required through traditional patient data storage changes by seamlessly integrating them into the current cloud operating system.

What type of patient data can be stored in the cloud?

There is no limit to the cloud’s ability to store and protect patient data. Typical patient data storage needs include:

  • Clinical – Whether it is a patient’s health records, physician notes and order, pharmaceutical information, test results, cloud computing options can store this and more.
  • Management – Revenue cycle management is crucial to the viability of the healthcare enterprise Patient healthcare issues related to revenue cycle management are candidates for cloud storage.
  • Business – Individual patient billing history, charges, reimbursements, denials, and more can be stored in the clouds.
  • Imaging – X-rays, CT scans, MRIs are among radiology and imaging records that can be stored in the cloud.

In short, if it is data relating to patient originating from anywhere in the organization, it can probably be stored in the cloud.

Can Confidential Patient Information Be Securely Stored in the Cloud?

By providing maximum security for patient data, healthcare enterprises support their brand image and enhance valuable relationships with patients and referrers. That makes HIPAA compliance is one of the key advantages of cloud storage.

Unlike server-based systems, private information is not prone to exposure due to human error or software glitches. Patient EHRs stored under most cloud-based systems are encrypted so even if the system were breached by an outside resource, a thief could not use the data they retrieve.

In a cloud-based format, confidential patient-based information is protected by a more experienced third-party, which is continually updating firewall security and other protection measures so that the only people reviewing the information are the people who are authorized to do so.

With cloud storage as a HIPAA-compliant patient information resource, protection is in the hands of experience.

Enterprise Imaging in the Cloud

Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR, pronounced “fire”) is a standard describing data formats and elements (known as “resources”) and an application programming interface (API) for exchanging electronic health records (EHR).
FHIR builds on previous data format standards from HL7, and is easier to implement because it uses a modern web-based suite of API technology, including a HTTP-based RESTful protocol.

By 2020, imaging studies in the U.S. are anticipated to account for 2.4 exabytes of data, presenting a unique opportunity for biomedical researchers to uncover the next healthcare breakthrough.

Safe Harbor methodology requires 18 PHI identifiers to be masked or removed, making data preparation a complex undertaking. To combat these vulnerabilities, biomedical studies must be de-identified in such a way that it can still be of value to researchers without revealing patient identity.

The solution is a proven and scalable de-identification toolset – an on-ramp to AI – that unlocks valuable imaging studies for areas such as research, policy assessment, and comparative effectiveness studies, without compromising patient privacy.

Consumption of high quality data by deep learning applications is an essential contribution to better machine learning algorithms, unleashing tremendous potential for research and for AI solutions that benefit patient care.

Cloud-Based Enterprise Imaging Solutions by Dicom Systems

Dicom Systems is pleased to make the Unifier and  Universal Cloud Archive Adaptor available on Google Cloud Platform. The collaboration with Google Cloud aims to improves enterprise imaging performance and scalability while making cloud adoption simple and secure for healthcare organizations.

Dicom Systems is also available on Amazon Web Services. Our cloud-based programs mean:

  • Simple end-to-end licenses – No migration cost, quick deployment and no termination fees
  • Secure and Compliant – Advanced PHI de-identification of DICOM metadata and pixels for research purposes. Images and data backed by Google’s rigorous privacy and compliance standards including HIPAA and EU Data Protection Directive
  • Vendor Neutral – Seamlessly integrates with any PACS, RIS, and EMR system
  • Run on a carbon-neutral infrastructure – Google Cloud operations and data centers run on 100% renewable energy
  • Cuts the traditional VNA cost in half – Pay only for what you use pricing providing up 60% cost savings over other cloud providers

Dicom Systems is a past recipient of the Google Cloud Partner Award for Innovative Solutions in Healthcare.

For more information on how Dicom Systems integrate with your healthcare cloud, call (415) 684-8790 or click here to reach us online

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