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What Does the Cloud Mean for Doctors?

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For all the talk about cloud computing these days, few people truly understand what “the cloud” actually means – and even fewer understand why they should care about it. In the simplest terms, the cloud means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of on a computer’s hard drive. Because the data is stored in the cloud, accessing it does not require any special hardware or devices. It can be accessed in the cloud from a smartphone, tablet, computer, or any other device with an Internet connection.

Innovations in virtualization and better access to high-speed Internet have accelerated the growth of cloud computing, according to Healthcare IT News. For busy doctors, cloud technology can provide scalable and easy-to-access resources, such as patient education information and animations that can be delivered to patients in the waiting room, exam room, and directly via email or the doctor’s website. However, studies have shown that doctors have been slow to embrace cloud computing, particularly in smaller medical practices.

But surveys are also showing that health care providers increasingly trust the cloud. According to a survey by health care IT provider Imprivata, only 9 percent of respondents used cloud computing in 2012, but 30 percent of respondents were users by the following year. Surveys by CompTIA, a non-profit IT trade association, also have found doctors to be low users of cloud computing, but noted that some probably use cloud-based applications, like software as a service, but don’t think of it as cloud computing. (For example, anytime a user accesses Google or an Apple application like Gmail or iTunes, that’s cloud-based technology.)

As the ease, accessibility, and security of cloud computing continues to climb, more doctors are sure to get on board. Here’s a look at how the cloud can benefit your practice.

Improve patient recall and compliance. One of the biggest benefits of the cloud for doctors is that it helps patients better manage their own health. Cloud-based patient education programs improve patient recall and compliance because they allow people to access procedure explanations and videos at home after an appointment, or wherever they’re thinking about their health. Patients can also share the materials with their families and anyone else involved in their care. Having access to that information on their own time cuts down on routine questions and calls to their doctor, because they no longer have to rely on their health care provider or their memory to recall important health information.

Create a central source for patient education. Because information stored in the cloud can be accessed anytime, from anywhere with an Internet connection, and on multiple devices, doctors who use it for patient education don’t have to worry about having multiple copies and versions of their materials. Formerly, one DVD was required to show procedure videos in the waiting room, and another copy was necessary for the exam room – if technology was available in the exam room at all. Any medical animations or video testimonials on a web site or social media pages were simply out of the question for many small practices without IT staff.

Cloud-based patient education materials and advanced graphics make it possible to play state-of-the-art, 3D animations in a waiting room, on a tablet in an exam room, on a practice’s web site, and even on patients’ smartphones, all at the same time. And since the program “lives” in the cloud, every machine in every location of a practice that uses it can be up to date at all times.

Improve marketing efforts. Cloud-based technologies can not only help doctors deliver better patient education, but can also be used as a marketing tool. Using the cloud to play high-quality animations of medical procedures in a waiting room or on a web site sends the message to patients that a practice embraces modern technology and is on the cutting-edge of health care. Promote procedures and services that patients may not be aware of, or showcase patient testimonials and any other type of customized content to engage patients.

Because most doctors need to spend their time in the exam room with patients and not on the phone with an IT consultant or on the computer deciphering code, the simplicity of using the cloud is one of the biggest advantages for busy doctors. Whether used to educate, engage or market services to patients, thinking about how to use cloud technology in the practice is a move toward efficiency.

Cloud computing is here to stay, and the advantages for health care providers are numerous. Echo from Eyemaginations is a cloud-based patient education solution with high-end graphics that can be used throughout the physician’s office and on any device. Get in touch to find out more about how cloud computing can help your practice.

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