If you were on holidays and you suddenly need medical care to deal with pre-existing condition, what will you do? The obvious thing is to call 911 or rush to the nearest clinic or hospital. If you have ever had the pleasure of visiting a hospital in an emergency, you already know that you would have to go through a series of questionnaires so that the health professional can get an overview of your previous medical situation. This is often annoying and time consuming. What if you can walk into any medical center and the doctor can access all your medical records through your social security number? That can save time and help the doctor give you the needed medical attention. It is analogue to going to visiting your family doctor. You don’t have to go through everything all over again.
With the advent of cloud based healthcare, the scenario above is not far fetched and highlights the role technology plays in the health system. Having a central location where patients can access their medical records from the comfort of their homes; where health professionals can consult with each other and where insurance companies can efficiently work with patients and doctors is a not only desirable but a necessity. There are many obvious advantages to harnessing the power of cloud computing in the healthcare industry.
Security versus Paranoia
When you hear that an organization like Wikileaks got access to classified information about the most powerful government in the world and released it to the general public, there is reason for concern and maybe a little bit of paranoia. Can you imagine finding your medical records about erectile dysfunction on the internet? What about seeing photos of yourself on Flickr in compromising position during a bilateral orchiectomy operation? These ideas might sound far fetched but security issues and the eventual ramifications (lawsuits) have long prevented medical centers from adopting the advantages of cloud computing. Times are changing and things are moving in the right direction.
Security and privacy issues are not the only reasons why people in the medical world have been slow to adopt cloud computing. The lack of standards and the difficulty of interoperability have hindered progress. Another reason for caution is that most health professional don’t even understand what cloud computing is and how it can help improve the way they do business. The electronic health record (EHR), a federal regulation that governs how medical information can be used is another factor that healthcare professionals need to take into consideration
Healthcare in the Cloud Gaining Momentum
The hybrid private cloud approach has seen some success. This allows hospitals and medical centers to have an internal cloud setup which they control. They can then open part of their data to partners and clients through a secure connection to their closed cloud network. This type of approach gives certain peace of mind and eases the way into a full blown cloud implementation. There is still a long way to go but IT companies like DELL and IBM having been helping health workers bridge the gap between knowing and doing.
According to Rackspace, a major player in the cloud industry, over 70 per cent of healthcare providers have plans to deploy some form of cloud technology in the near future. That is a high percentage that shows that cloud computing in the health service is not about “if” but more about “when”.