While the cloud has certainly encountered reluctant acceptance in healthcare, its benefits addressing key issues like security, improved patient care, disaster recovery and compliance are rapidly expediting its entrance to the field. A recent HIMSS Analytics 2016 Cloud Survey exploring the evolution of cloud presence in healthcare found that organizations are increasingly trusting of cloud platforms with protected health information (PHI). Healthcare organizations are implementing cloud platforms for office applications as an initial test, with goals to roll out cloud tools to manage analytics, PACs storage and patient-facing applications.
HIMSS Healthcare Cloud Statistics
The findings in the survey point to a significant increase in cloud comfort in 2016:
- While only 13.3% of respondents have cloud business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) functions in place, 47% plan to implement them in 2016
- 53% of respondents plan to leverage the cloud for compute cycles to analyze big data
- 35% of respondents already have cloud patient engagement/empowerment tools in place, and another 38% intent to put them in place
Microsoft’s Growing Healthcare Presence
For addressing core competencies, respondents reported Microsoft Azure as the most frequent choice for back office solutions. Microsoft has been doubling down on cloud security that the healthcare industry will find valuable. It recently delivered SQL Server 2016, highlighting a focus on analytics, cloud functionality, data encryption and security. SQL Server 2016 includes a feature dubbed Always Encrypted, which protects data at rest and in motion. Administrative access rights are not even sufficient enough to view data with SQL Server 2016–anyone viewing the data must have specific credentials to do so. Additionally of value to healthcare professionals is new functionality in Windows 10 that allows clinicians to view an EHR interface next to home health apps, as reported by HealthcareITNews. Further, data privacy features have been added to Office 2016, and Skype is growing in its ability to serve as a telehealth communications tool for consultants, illustrating Microsoft’s growing desire to better serve the industry.
Healthcare Cloud Use Case: Azure IoT for Kaiser Permanente
Microsoft shares a case study on its site about how Kaiser Permanente created a remote patient-monitoring system prototype based on the Microsoft Azure Internet of Things (IoT) services. The system connects to smartphones and devices like blood pressure and glucose meters in patients’ homes and integrates that data with an existing analytics program used in Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics.
The remote monitoring in homes helps patients like expectant mothers, diabetics and those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease the power to more comfortably access care. The real-time access to data also generates better insight into health conditions, empowering medical professionals to provide adjustments based on real-time alerts. The remote, real-time monitoring of patient vital signs and real-time alerts delivered through the Microsoft Azure platform allowed Kaiser Permanente to reduce outpatient visits for routine checks and vital sign reporting. The medical staff is also receiving stronger insights into patient data, improving efficiency and workflow for nurses, dieticians and additional staff.
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