Level 3 Communications

Kim Lindros

How the Cloud Fills Critical Healthcare Gaps

All businesses need to make split-second decisions using the most recent data available. The ability to process data at lightning speed in most industries typically results in financial gain and market advantage.

The stakes are higher in healthcare.

Getting medical results, diagnosing patients and determining the best course of treatment can mean the difference between life and death. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, diagnostic errors affect 12 million outpatient adults and contribute to 80,000 deaths in U.S. hospitals every year. When errors are discovered, it’s critical for healthcare personnel to be able to communicate them quickly.

Every industry is moving some or all of their operations to the cloud. Public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud options offer distinct advantages over traditional on-premise data centers. Clouds are highly scalable, offer fast deployment, don’t require a lot of IT maintenance and have affordable, predictable costs. Those features make the cloud a great choice for healthcare.

The lower upfront investment of a cloud infrastructure drives new business models around wearable devices, mobile health (mHealth) and other eHealth services. These new cloud-related medical services, combined with more traditional electronic health records (EHR), also generate a lot of data. In total, the healthcare industry will generate more than 2,314 exabytes of data by 2020 to be exact. If you put all of that data on tablet computers, the stack would reach more than a third of the way to the moon.

The challenge facing the healthcare industry is making that data available in a form consumable by medical professionals at the moment of need. For example, emergency room doctors with access to the data on cardiac patients’ Fitbits and Apple Watches could save more lives. Oncologists with current data on cancer patients taking a new drug could use that information to modify treatment plans more effectively.

Today, even with the U.S. government’s heavy promotion of EHR adoption throughout the healthcare industry, data on individual patients is often scattered across different providers’ systems, which are not interoperable. The odds are good that a typical provider lacks a holistic view of a particular patient’s health records at any point in time.

In the future, the leaders in healthcare will be those who use cloud technologies running on extremely fast networks, enabling the data to be integrated, accessed and analyzed in real time. Previously siloed data will be available to improve the course of treatment.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also making significant inroads into healthcare, with spending forecasted to increase from $2.1 billion currently to $36.1 billion in 2025. AI plays a role in EHR, clinical decision support systems, hospital workflow processes and much more. At the patient level, Frost & Sullivan found that applying AI to healthcare data has the potential to improve outcomes by 30% to 40% while reducing the cost of treatment upwards of 50%.

To make this a reality requires the cloud, with its easy accessibility and ability to store and crunch vast amounts of data. Milliseconds matter in healthcare, and the cloud will deliver.

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