Five Pillars of Cloud Computing That Power Telemedicine
Take a moment to picture yourself in the final months of 2019. The old routine continued. There was no need for social isolation or the fear of a virus lingering in the air. Access to medical facilities and hospitals was easy. Then came a global pandemic that changed the world. All of a sudden, ‘Virtual’ was the new normal. As lockdowns went into place, organizations that primarily depended on in-person customer service were forced to adopt a virtual route instead. They had to meet their customers where they were, which was increasingly at home. COVID-19 accelerated technology transformation in almost every industry. Healthcare is one such industry that witnessed the tremendous digital transformation. Given the pace of change, it is evident that winners in the healthcare industry will be predominantly cloud-first, as the winners are in almost every other consumer-facing business. Let’s take a look at some of the critical enhancements in the health care industry and the role of cloud computing.
The Rise of Telehealth
It’s no surprise that healthcare was one of the most impacted industries during the pandemic. Despite healthcare facilities restricting access and cutting back on non-emergency visits, patients still needed to consult their general practitioners for several non-COVID-related issues, including many that did not require a physical examination. With lockdowns and strict social distancing measures in place, moving non-emergency patients through the healthcare system was challenging. General practitioners had to find a way to increase remote diagnosis and treatment. The answer was telehealth.
Though telehealth systems existed before the pandemic, their adoption was very slow due to the cost of technology, its complexities, compliance, and insurance concerns. However, the onset of the pandemic forced insurers and policymakers to relax regulatory guidelines and compliance requirements around the use of telehealth services. This allowed enterprises to ramp up the adoption of telehealth.
According to McKinsey’s COVID-19 Consumer Survey, telehealth has become more popular to the point where 46% of consumers now use telehealth to replace missed appointments. It is predicted that telehealth will continue to gain popularity in the post-pandemic era.
Research firm Precedence Research estimates that the global telehealth market will reach USD 224.8 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 18.8% between 2021 and 2030.
Telehealth is one of the terms used to describe the adoption of mobile and desktop technology for patient management. The other two are Telemedicine and E-health. Despite their similarities, these terms all refer to different applications of technology within healthcare.
What is the difference between Telehealth, Telemedicine, and E-health?
- Telehealth refers to the use of various technologies and services to provide patient care and improve the delivery of healthcare.
- Telemedicine refers to remote clinical services.
- E-health includes providing health information, education, training health workers, and managing health systems via the Internet and telecommunications.
To sum it up, the difference between telehealth and telemedicine is that telehealth includes a broader range of remote healthcare services. In addition to clinical services, remote services include clinical training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education. Hence telemedicine is a subset of telehealth. Further, telehealth is a subset of E-health.
Five ways how cloud computing is making telehealth more efficient and agile.
1. Speed of deployment
Telemedicine services had to implement almost immediately in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Budget constraints and legacy systems often impede agility and innovation in such emergencies. However, healthcare providers who had shifted their operations to the cloud could implement telemedicine services quickly without worrying about upfront costs or scalability issues. This is because most cloud-based applications can be set up within a matter of hours and require no additional hardware or software.
In addition, pre-configured cloud-based telehealth systems are already available for licensing and installation. This eliminates the need for building apps from scratch and the cost of purchasing hardware and software to support the pre-built systems. Licensed systems, however, must be integrated into existing clinical management software and processes. One of the most significant advantages of cloud computing is that it requires lower initial investment than conventional physical IT infrastructure, making it more economical.
To maintain patient confidentiality, patient health information (PHI) must be stored in a secure manner that complies with legal requirements such as HIPAA, GDPR, and PHIPA. Healthcare organizations levy the highest level of security and compliance protocols to keep their patient’s information safe. And so do some of the best cloud service providers. For instance, Microsoft invests billions of dollars into cloud security to ensure they maintain the highest privacy and data security standards. The Microsoft Azure platform is fast becoming the most trusted cloud for the healthcare industry. Their combination of vast expertise, built-in security features, and real-time network monitoring capabilities helps organizations drive digital transformation faster while minimizing risks. With Azure, you can take advantage of unlimited, elastic cloud resources and perform a more in-depth risk analysis, modeling, and simulation. Moreover, organizations can get actionable insight based on current market trends, reduce infrastructure costs, and respond quickly to regulatory changes.
In a nutshell, health care providers can use Cloud-based telemedicine to store data and report breaches more effectively. They can access data more quickly, repair security breaches more efficiently, and store data at multiple levels of encryption, as necessary while maintaining the highest levels of encryption required by HIPAA regulations. Hence, cloud storage is more secure than on-premises storage that needs large IT teams and security experts for regular maintenance and updates.
Collaboration is facilitated by sharing. Through cloud adoption, stakeholders can collaborate more effectively by eliminating information silos and enhancing transparency. Doctors, nurses, and caregivers can securely share data in real-time using the Cloud. For instance, a Cloud-based video conferencing system allows physicians to quickly consult with specialists across the country or the world with no additional infrastructure requirements.
In addition to sharing amongst doctors, patients too can access medical reports and documents anywhere, anytime. Healthcare providers must share data and perform personal patient interactions with their patients virtually in an interoperable manner to deploy telehealth successfully-that is by allowing different systems to exchange information and use it. As a result, they need data and technology to integrate electronic records management, medication management, home health solutions, and analytics & reporting. Cloud computing facilitates the smooth collaboration of different systems for holistic Healthcare.
The cloud-based collaboration will enable Healthcare to become more democratized. Patients will have access to their data with the accelerated ability of data exchange and better tools to interpret the results. Telemedicine empowers patients to take control of their health care.
4. Scalability and Flexibility
As healthcare becomes more collaborative, patient-centered, and data-driven, telehealth providers leverage the scalability and flexibility of cloud solutions to ramp up or down their IT requirements based on business needs.
The customer only pays for the services they use, and there is no need to purchase hardware or pre-order services. Cloud computing enables healthcare providers to increase or decrease data storage capacity according to business needs. For instance, online doctor consultations at Practo (a health tech company based in India) have increased 500% since March 2020. In such cases, cloud IT resources can automatically scale to meet changing demands, allowing call volumes to fluctuate from one to one million concurrent users. In addition, cloud migration practices reduce risks and minimize downtime, prevent information leakage, improve data processing, and strengthen security practices.
5. Data storage:
Tens of millions of patients using telehealth services result in hundreds of terabytes of data in various formats and millions of documents. The documents can be structured or unstructured and include radiology images, electronic health records, audio/video recordings, and streaming data.
With cloud storage, we have the flexibility to store all our important data. It could be used for backups, archives, or even extensions of local file systems. Recent years have seen a number of different storage tiers being offered by cloud providers. In addition to optimizing storage resources, these storage tiers help you backup data efficiently, save money, and make the most of storage technology to suit each type of data. Tiering and archiving in the cloud enable you to move less frequently used data from an on-premises file server or Network Attached Storage (NAS) to a cheaper and more reliable cloud storage service, usually object storage, such as Amazon S3, Azure Blob, or Google Cloud Storage.
The healthcare industry is entering a new era with telehealth. In a study by Harvard Business Review, 97% of patients recommend telemedicine after their first experience. Without cloud computing, this wouldn’t have been possible. To facilitate a simple and smooth migration to the cloud, Microsoft Azure and other cloud platform providers have built reference architectures for building telehealth applications to facilitate a simple and smooth migration to the cloud. These Reference architectures take the best parts of the cloud platform and combine them for multiple use cases.
Adoption of telehealth made easy with Data Dynamics
Data Dynamic’s unified software platform is helping healthcare enterprises with intelligent and compliant cloud data migration that is secure and error-free. The analytics-driven platform provides a one-stop solution for intelligently filtering data based on PHI-defined criteria and helps manage and categorize unstructured data. It also provides a mechanism for triggering automated remediation while securing data from unauthorized access.To learn more about how we can help you accelerate the adoption of hybrid, public, and multi-cloud strategies, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.