The Cloud has More to Offer Doctors: A Closer Look

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Recently, we discussed what cloud computing means for doctors. The health care industry has been notoriously slow to adopt new technologies, and the cloud is no different. This is partly due to issues of cost and time, but also ­— quite understandably — because of privacy concerns about patient information.

At a recent health tech conference, Joshua Newman, an M.D. and the director of product and health strategy at Salesforce.com, a pioneering cloud technology company, said a big part of his job is communicating the value of the cloud to health providers, while alleviating their fears about breaches of sensitive patient data. (To be fair, there have been millions of such breaches reported to the federal government – and those are just the ones that were reported.)

The health care cloud is growing, along with providers’ trust
However, doctors soon may not have a choice but to embrace the cloud, given new federal requirements for the health care industry to begin migrating patient records from paper-based to digital. Basically, all medical professionals with access to patient records must utilize electronic medical and health records (EMR and EHR) by 2015, or face penalties.

A recent study by the firm MarketsandMarkets indicates that the health care cloud computing market, which is only currently about four percent of the industry, is expected to grow to nearly $5.4 billion by 2017.

Some good news for doctors is that there is an increased willingness among cloud service providers — including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, as well as health care-specific providers — to sign HIPAA business associate agreements, which require these providers to safeguard an organization’s protected health information (PHI) in compliance with HIPAA privacy and security rules. And surveys show evidence that health care increasingly trusts the cloud — 40 percent of health care organizations using the cloud store PHI there, according to a 2013 survey, compared to nine percent in 2012.

Not all-or-nothing when it comes to the cloud
It’s important to realize that cloud computing is not an “all-or-nothing game,” said Newman. It can seem daunting when you realize the sheer magnitude of applications, services, and components that the cloud encompasses.

Cloud technology in health care can be segmented many different ways, including by applications —either clinical information systems like EMRs, or non-clinical information systems like automatic patient billing and claims management. The health care cloud market can be further segmented into service models — Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

Newman advises health care providers to take “baby steps” when it comes to embracing the cloud. Not only is it easier to ease into something new, but many health professionals are already using similar platforms and may not even realize it — like GoToMeeting for conference calls and Constant Contact for email newsletters, to name a couple.

The right platform can also have the benefit of having an almost immediate effect on improving patient experience and even a medical practice’s bottom line. A cloud-based platform that helps with patient engagement and the delivery of patient education materials may be just the place to start.

For more information on how the cloud is transforming health care, or for a demo of Echo, get in touch today.

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