Amid numerous pain points related to the Affordable Care Act, organizational challenges in maintaining HIPAA compliance, and the ever-present threat of tightening budgets, hospitals are about to get a much-deserved bit of help.
The healthcare cloud is created by Google to help lower healthcare costs while increasing patient data storage, improving research capabilities, and ensuring sensitive care center data is kept secure. Healthcare data breaches cost about $380 per record, which is 2.5 times the global average across different industries, so it’s more important than ever to have an infrastructure that protects vital information.
Adapting cloud computing to healthcare will have numerous benefits. Among these, it will simplify complications related to mergers and acquisitions, including faster integrations of patient data and historical information, especially medical imaging. On the security front, the basic requirements of cloud tools are focused on data encryption, information gets easily backed up, is easily recoverable, and features strict role-based access.
Cloud computing in healthcare also lends itself to those industry-specific challenges by promising to lower costs. On-premise solutions are bulky and have tremendous operational and maintenance costs associated with them. In contrast, cloud products operate on a monthly subscription basis. Cloud providers also migrate much of the data themselves, so hospital administrators won’t have to hire additional staff or spend extra resources to handle the adoption.
Google Partners with the NIH
Google has joined up with the National Institutes of Health to collaborate on biomedical innovation. Part of the STRIDES Initiative (Science and Technology Research Infrastructure for Discovery, Experimentation and Sustainability Initiative), NIH chose the search and tech company as its first-ever partner. Google will bring cloud storage, computing, and machine learning technologies to NIH researchers and the 2,500+ agencies that receive federal funding. Google Cloud will also be a frequent collaborator with NIH Data Commons to share and upload biomedical information.
Gregory Moore, M.D., Ph.D., Vice President, Healthcare, Google Cloud, said that this agreement focuses on “…making it easier for scientists and physicians to access and garner insights from NIH-funded data sets with appropriate privacy protections, which will ultimately accelerate biomedical research progress toward finding treatments and cures for the most devastating diseases of our time.
Healthcare cloud computing is at the center of the partnership, and a major goal will be building a solution that removes the barriers that are inherent to accessing large biomedical data sets to facilitate a more streamlined approach towards research.
To alleviate privacy concerns, Google will be integrating researcher authentication and authorization mechanisms with Google Cloud credentials. Further, Google will be teaming up with a pair of nonprofits to to support industry standards for data access, discovery, and cloud computation.
Cloud Computing Benefits in Healthcare
The question facing healthcare administrators is no longer “Should we move to the cloud?” but how quickly and cost-efficiently they can do it. To that end, a TriCore study found that a vast major of organizations have wholly embraced the cloud, or at least have migrated to a cloud/on-premise hybrid solution.
The benefits for doing so are well-documented, and among them are:
Benefit 1: Faster connection of multiple locations following M&A
With traditional hardware and on-premise tools, linking up new offices and care centers after a mergers and acquisition deal can take months, if not longer, and even then, there are challenges aplenty. However, a virtualized network can be implemented in just a few days, with all locations operating in unison.
When the Miami Children’s Hospital decided to expand into new locations, they saw the scalability of the cloud as a major advantage for them. “As we continue to expand our network to have a data capability that is virtualized, then scaling locations geographically or other ways becomes a much quicker and more efficient process,” says Dr. Narendra Kini, CEO at Miami Children’s Hospital.
Benefit 2: Costs are significantly lowered
Medical spending is expected to rise by $3.5 trillion from 2010-2040. Deploying the right cloud-based healthcare IT solutions solves two bottom line problems at once: eliminating skyrocketing costs associated with cloud contact renewals, and the reduction of having one third party vendor for every component of workforce collaboration. A good provider will instead come with app solutions for productivity, as well as showing how they’re less expensive to license than traditional legacy platforms (such as on-premise solutions).
Health Cloud Expectations and Projected Growth
The healthcare cloud industry is expected to expand rapidly, reaching about $45 billion in 2023, up from just under $19.5 billion in 2018. Some of the key factors driving this expansion into a tech powerhouse are: increasing adoption of big data, wearable devices, and IoT in healthcare; advantages of cloud usage, and the implementation of healthcare legislation (i.e. Affordable Care Act), among others. Secondary benefits, though still just as important, are improved storage, flexibility, and the scalability of organizational data.
The future of cloud computing in healthcare, at least part of it, lies in collecting increasingly accurate data to operate more smoothly at the organizational level, as well as leveraging such data to provide stronger patient care. Whatever the costs are in achieving these goals, the bottom line and patient outcome benefits more than justify any associated expenditure. Executives may be reticent to invest in a solution that hasn’t been proven to be safer and more secure than legacy systems, but the writing is on the wall with regards to the cloud’s effectiveness.
Specifically, the IoT in healthcare applications is a driver of this. Medical providers can monitor a patient’s heart rate or condition, all through the combination of mobile apps that are synced to a larger cloud system. This eliminates barriers, such as geography or a general dislike of hospitals, that prevent patients from visiting care centers, and it allows doctors and nurses to access the cloud to monitor a patient’s vitals. This also allows smaller hospitals to access patient data, without having to worry about whether or not investing in their own system will force them to make impossible budget cuts or sacrifice in areas where they shouldn’t.