Healthcare in the clouds. Cloud technologies for medicine

In healthcare, we can all see a noticeable surge in innovation. Today we are witnessing a massive digital transformation, affecting every aspect of the industry, including security, predictability, productivity, and accessibility.

Digital transformation changes crucially healthcare, especially innovative technologies such as block chain, artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things, and others, including software-enabled devices (SaMD). While these technologies are essential drivers of unprecedented growth for healthcare companies, cloud computing is becoming the foundation of all these next-generation technology innovations.

Let us take a closer look at the various aspects of cloud computing in healthcare. In addition, let us discover how it is becoming the driving force behind the revolution in the industry.

Cloud Computing in Healthcare

First cloud computing in the medical industry is the ability of remote access servers via the Internet for storing, managing, and processing medical data. This process provides stakeholders with flexible solutions for remote interaction with servers where medical data is hosted. Remote access to information overcomes geographical limitations for obtaining medical services.

Cloud computing for healthcare should also highlight applications for patients and healthcare providers. These applications enable the secure use of vast amounts of data anywhere, anytime, improving patient care, streamlining operations, and automating processes.

Cloud computing in the medical field is, primarily, the ability to remotely access servers via the Internet to store, manage, and process medical data.

Why does medicine need clouds?

Organizations in the healthcare industry are adopting new technologies to improve healthcare services. However, despite innovation, they face challenges such as high hardware costs, the need to expand computing resources, ensuring ease of use, managing multiple tenancies, and the need for collaboration.

Cloud computing brings many benefits to solve the problems in the healthcare industry.

1. Convenient access to medical records.

Previously, each patient kept his own medical data in separate files, making documentation difficult for doctors and staff. Cloud computing has made this process easier. Electronic records can now be stored in one central location and accessed through the web portals of medical centers at any convenient time. Secure cloud platforms provide data protection using hosting and virtual machines for quick access to records and rapid diagnosis of patient conditions.

2. Improving the quality of patient care.

Patients can initiate virtual consultations or schedule an appointment with a physician with just a few clicks. Automatic reminders about upcoming visits and tracking them are becoming commonplace. After surgery, the cloud platform ensures regular communication with doctors, reminding patients to take medications and providing information about upcoming procedures. Doctors can remotely monitor patient health indicators using medical equipment e.g. infusion pumps connected to the cloud. Patients can easily share, view, and store their medical records in the cloud. Doctors can access this information remotely.

3. Efficient use of resources.

Cloud technologies can provide excellent support for HR, administrative, and operational functions. They also supply planning, file retrieval, routing, and inventory management services, making processes more efficient, profitable, and cost-effective.

4. Flexibility in extreme situations.

During emergencies such as pandemics, natural disasters, or access problems, cloud services become extremely useful. When the availability of doctors and medical care is limited, cloud-based systems make it possible to transmit information to those on duty with instructions on how to treat the injured or sick.

5. Promotion of medical research and development.

Doctors and medical staff invest in research to improve their practice by collecting vital data about surgeries and treatments performed. Storing and sharing this information in the cloud helps analyze and research more effectively. They use it for case studies and dissertations, making it accessible to other doctors and scientists.

6. Supply management.

Effectively managing data related to medical devices, drugs, and pills requires detailed information such as expiration date, date of purchase, supplier details, etc. All this information can be stored and easily retrieved from the cloud. Cloud services also ensure that data on the condition of equipment and medications that are expiring are updated for timely replenishment of supplies.

7. Access to data analysis.

In analytics, tasks require a deeper understanding of data. That is when cloud tools become indispensable. Healthcare has a wealth of data, including patient information, both structured and unstructured. Cloud technology makes it possible to collect relevant patient data from various sources. Applying big data analytics and artificial intelligence can stimulate medical research and develop more individualized treatment plans.

8. Patient ownership of their data.

Cloud computing centralizes data and gives patients control over their information. This increases patient participation in decisions about their health. Automated data backup and decentralized storage make data recovery more efficient.

9. Compatibility and cooperation.

Cloud computing allows doctors and healthcare providers to collaborate and improve health outcomes. When all the data is available in one place, a collaborative team of stakeholders can develop plans, track progress, and provide consistent care to improve health outcomes. Medical records, diagnoses, and patient histories are instantly transmitted via the cloud to medical specialists. In addition, cooperation with insurance companies can facilitate smooth payments to medical institutions.

Storing and sharing medical information in the cloud helps doctors analyze and research more efficiently and use it for case studies and dissertations, making them accessible to other doctors and scientists.

Using types of cloud solutions in medicine

  1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provides the core components of cloud computing solutions for businesses, including virtualized servers, storage, and networking resources. Electronic health records (EHRs) and medical photographs can be securely stored and retrieved using IaaS, enabling smooth growth of data storage capacity.

  2. Platform as a service (PaaS) simplifies the development and deployment of healthcare applications because complex infrastructure management is not required. Medical software developers use PaaS to create advanced products (for example, telemedicine).

  3. Through SaaS (Software as a Service), healthcare providers are supplied with ready-to-use software that simplifies administrative work, patient management, EHR systems, billing, and scheduling software.

  4. Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) ensures data continuity in case of system failures or natural disasters. It ensures constant access to vital patient records and uninterrupted medical treatment.

Cloud solutions in telemedicine are applicable for exchanging medical data of patients in real-time, regardless of geographical boundaries.

Wide range of applications

The healthcare industry uses management information systems to optimize the flow of information within and between organizations. Doctors use the system to improve patient care. Clients – to request services. Administrators – to manage human resources, billing, and finance. Top management – for decision-making and forecasting. Due to the confidentiality of information, developers use cloud platform services to develop, test, and deploy this system. This ensures rapid joint development, cross-platform compatibility, and system integration with other legacy systems.

Telemedicine. Information and communication technologies we use to support and provide patient care services. Cloud computing can be used as an ICT infrastructure for telemedicine projects. Telehealth technologies such as telesurgery, audio/video conferencing, and teleradiology have made collaboration and communication among healthcare stakeholders essential. Telemedicine services help patients receive clinical care anywhere. In addition, medical professionals can provide their expert opinion to resolve complex medical cases. Cloud software enables doctor-patient and doctor-doctor interaction, as well as transfer and archiving of medical images.

Cloud solutions in telemedicine are applicable for:

  • exchange of patients’ medical data in real-time, regardless of geographical boundaries;
  • extracting the archive to the right place and time;
  • reducing unnecessary visits to doctors, saving time and money.

The drug discovery process requires sufficient computing resources to discover potential compounds from trillions of chemical structures. Various IaaS cloud services make this process simple. For example, a joint venture between Molplex, Newcastle University, and Microsoft Research is using cloud technologies in the drug development process. With the IaaS cloud, pharmacists can leverage the computing infrastructure, to analyze vast biological resources. This revolutionary technology has radically reduced the cost and time of drug development.

Digital libraries serve as a source of knowledge for medical students, researchers, and practitioners. Paper-based medical libraries in developing countries face financial barriers. Thus, cloud digital libraries offer huge file storage, indexing services, query languages, and hosting library management systems. Cloud solutions are applicable for library digitization:

  • Institutions and individuals can use the facility upon request.
  • Information seekers simplify their search process with a semantic query-based approach.
  • Doctors to keep abreast of current progress in the medical field and improve their practice.

Virtual medical universities. Cloud computing has its influence in the academic sector due to its flexibility and pay-as-you-go model. Various applications are developed to support academic learning on and off campus. Medical universities can use cloud models to conduct online lectures, and seminars and enhance collaboration among academic communities around the world. Cloud computing can help healthcare providers reach many students at a lower cost and with less effort.

Clinical decision support system (CDSS). This expert system uses the knowledge and behavior of a medical specialist to make recommendations based on the analysis of patient records. Doctors use this system for diagnosis and treatment. Cloud computing technology can develop these systems to support patient care as required. The advent of smartphone technology with built-in sensors to track heart rate, blood pressure, and diabetes makes these cloud-based systems effective for real-time diagnosis. Such wise, patients can share their data with the system and receive appropriate advice. When using cloud services, these systems can provide an accurate treatment process, especially in emergency cases when doctors are unavailable.

Cloud-based population health management services help track diseases, map them geospatially, and inform the public about the presence of risk.

Best management practices. Healthcare providers can monitor, manage, and optimize financial and administrative processes using cloud computing to improve productivity by automating daily tasks and simplifying practices. Cloud services allow practitioners to mine vast amounts of data to develop effective treatment plans. Patients can use these services to explore their medical concerns and collaborate with their healthcare providers. For example, the Flatiron Oncology Cloud is a comprehensive technology solution designed to provide quality care to cancer patients.

Biological software. Cloud computing models solve big data problems with biological software. This process is known as the bioinformatics cloud. The cloud model developed for biological software provides data collection, analysis, storage services, optimization of life sciences algorithms, and data-intensive scientific tools in bioinformatics.

Quality medical care has acquired the status of a fundamental human right. In addition, this is an expensive and very complex topic. Even the developed countries of the world are finding it difficult to cope with the enormous scale of healthcare needs. However, channeling the power of cloud computing into the healthcare system can lead to tangible progress in providing quality and affordable healthcare to everyone, not just the privileged.

Cloud-based health management services help track diseases, compile their geospatial maps, and inform the population about the presence of risks.

10 cloud tools for medicine

Let us introduce the latest cloud-based tools, applications, storage, and software solutions that medical staff currently use in the healthcare industry.

1. eClinicalWorks Cloud

Provides users with a fully integrated cloud environment including EMR (Electronic Medical Record), practice management platform, Healow patient registration application, remote visits, and patient portal. Relies on Microsoft Azure data centers to provide virtually unlimited data storage and memory, continuous data backup and security monitoring, and technical updates.

2. Cloud Applications Healow

eClinicalWorks offers a range of applications that help healthcare providers interact with patients. For example, Healow trackers allow you to monitor blood pressure, blood sugar, physical activity, calorie intake, BMI, and sleep. Healow Mom helps future mothers track their pregnancies and schedule appointments. Healow Kids provides pediatricians with the ability to reduce appointment no-shows, communicate with parents, and limit the number of phone calls. The company recently introduced Healow CHECK-IN, enabling contactless appointment confirmation and registration, as well as payment services for online billing.

3. GreenwayHealth

The entire package has been designed to ease the burden of server management and software updates for healthcare organizations. Provides users with a secure, modern, and flexible platform that meets all the latest requirements of medicine. Greenway Secure Cloud offers security monitoring, 24/7 disaster recovery, reliable servers, and infrastructure updates.

4. Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare

It is an integrated communications and data management platform, that works with Microsoft 365 and Azure. Combines the functions of video calls and text messaging, as well as calendars for organizing the work of medical staff and other tools for collaboration. It helps to combine data from different sources.

5. Google Cloud Healthcare API

By combining data analytics and machine learning, the Google Cloud Healthcare API provides a secure development environment for creating solutions for healthcare practices. This tool makes it easy to share sensitive data with new applications developed on Google Cloud. Works well with data science, analytics, and machine learning platforms.

6. 3D4Medical

This cloud-based application has been designed specifically for medical education and diagnostics. 3D4Medical allows students and doctors to see human anatomy in detail and explore the connections between organs, muscles, and other tissues. Currently used in universities and clinical settings around the world.

7. NetApp

NetApp uses a hybrid cloud infrastructure to provide real-time data management and accelerate EMR operations. Purpose-built for healthcare and life sciences, NetApp's solution is designed to optimize clinical data management. It is tested and certified to meet data security requirements. Not only speed up the process of accessing and using data, but also it is now incorporating artificial intelligence to make data analysis and diagnosis faster and more accurate.

8. Box for healthcare

This cloud storage platform was designed to make document sharing as easy as possible while providing top-level cybersecurity. All data stored in Box is encrypted. Security measures comply with the latest standards. It combines enterprise-grade security with advanced file sharing. That is why hospitals, health insurance companies, biotech laboratories, and pharmaceutical corporations trust it.

9. Medscape app

Medscape is the most popular cloud application for doctors and healthcare professionals all over the world. It provides the latest medical news and information on new treatments and clinical innovations. It has a convenient schedule of available CME (continuing medical education) courses and tracks the user's points for professional education. Consultation features enable physicians and medical students to crowdsource solutions to complex patient cases and clinical treatment options. There are no download or subscription fees.

10.VisualDX

It is an innovative cloud-based tool designed to help doctors and specialists improve diagnostic accuracy with concise, peer-reviewed content written by medical experts in each specialty. The app provides a wealth of relevant information and images with one click, speeding differential diagnosis and improving patient care. VisualDX helps healthcare professionals consider alternative diagnoses, confirm results, check for drug interactions, and determine the best treatment options. It is available for desktop and mobile devices and integrates with your current EMR system.

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Reality today and prospects

Doctors can quickly update health information in the cloud system, which allows them to carry out the necessary treatment procedures with maximum efficiency. Reducing costs, better management, and attention to every detail are effective methods for improving patient care standards.

Pharmaceutical and biotechnology company Pfizer has been using cloud services for its projects since 2016. In collaboration with BioNTech, it developed a vaccine against COVID-19, working with Amazon Web Services to create cloud-based solutions to speed up and improve the development, manufacturing, and distribution processes for clinical trials.

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, along with its partner the University of Oxford, has also used cloud technology to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. The company used the services of 4 providers: AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Alibaba. The partners used AZ Cloud, a hybrid multi-cloud environment with public clouds.

Healthcare company Chemical Corporation decided to move to the cloud to improve the security of its operations and better manage its business processes. To implement the idea, they used the Microsoft Azure public cloud.

The introduction of cloud computing in healthcare has caused significant changes in the creation, use, storage, and exchange of health information. McKinsey estimates that by 2030, healthcare cloud solutions could generate between $100 billion and $170 billion in benefits. A key driver of this growth is enabling medical healthcare companies to innovate, digitalize processes, and more effectively achieve their strategic goals.

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