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Leveraging the Power of Cloud in Healthcare | @CloudExpo #Cloud

One of the great benefits of cloud computing is the seemingly endless possibilities it provides

One of the great challenges of cloud computing is the seemingly endless possibilities it provides.

Yes, you read that right. The perceived infiniteness of the cloud is both an asset and a challenge, especially when it comes to the healthcare industry. With its strict regulations regarding privacy (i.e., HIPAA), healthcare organizations have been timid (and slow, in comparison to other industries) to adopt cloud computing efforts.

Yet, cloud computing done right is changing the way healthcare organizations operate and facilitating many providers' goal of delivering a patient-centric experience.

Leveraging the power of the cloud starts with choosing the right partners and tools. Implementation of cloud services doesn't have to be an all-in scenario; in fact, there are relatively easy ways organizations can start harnessing the power of the cloud. From public, private or hybrid cloud to healthcare-specific software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, there are options out there to consider.

What are the benefits of a cloud environment?
Before we get too far down the line here, let's talk about some of the key benefits of incorporating cloud computing in the healthcare field.

With the adoption of electronic medical records (EMR) and electronic health records (EHR) across the U.S., there's more data than ever before. Having electronic records isn't necessarily enough to stay competitive and meet the needs of patients, however.

The cloud can facilitate a more connected health system by enabling hospitals and doctors' offices to have access to health records from anywhere and on multiple different devices. The ability to share records across settings and locations offers patients the opportunity to deliver proficient care and creates operational efficiency.

One of the concerns with cloud adoption in the healthcare field is the stringent laws governing privacy.

There are many cloud service providers that are conscious of the security and privacy parameters of the healthcare industry. Due diligence is always necessary to ensure compliance across the care continuum, but these services offer the advantage of unloading the burden of implementing the required security controls to the cloud provider.

Lastly, the cloud provides built-in flexibility, versatility and scalability. Healthcare organizations are not limited by server capacities or burdened by the capital costs to expand virtual storage. Cloud storage can expand (or contract) based on organizational need. In the ever-changing and competitive healthcare field, utilizing the cloud can help take a practice or hospital/system to the next level to achieve both business and patient care goals.

Now, let's look at some of the specific ways medical providers can leverage cloud computing:

Ways to leverage the cloud in healthcare
Integrating cloud-based technologies into a healthcare environment is a big undertaking, but one that's fast becoming a necessity in the field. Experts predict the healthcare cloud market will hit $3.5 billion by 2020.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software
Typically offered as a software-as-a-service and in a pay-per-user format, a customer (patient) relationship management, or CRM, system can bring diverse sets of information into a single system. As a cloud-based program, a CRM has more storage and scalability, adding flexibility and increased access to doctors and other providers.

Healthcare organizations create a tremendous amount of data. The trick is to leverage that data to provide better care for patients, develop new lines of business and find efficiency across the organization. A CRM can do the heavy lifting in this area.

A healthcare-specific CRM can integrate multiple sources of information across the organization and report it in a single pane. By bringing together seemingly disconnected information (think patient demographics and call center inquiries), a CRM can transform the data into useable and actionable information.

Marketing teams and physician liaisons can leverage a CRM tool to identify and develop targeted campaigns for new patients, as well as provide meaningful patient engagement for existing patients.

A traditional server structure struggles to keep up with the amount of data, necessitating capital expenditures to improve, expand and maintain server assets. Utilizing some element of cloud storage can expand a system's agility and scalability.

Partnering with a cloud service provider with specific healthcare experience will ease the transition and security-related concerns. A strong service agreement that guarantees a certain level of accessibility, security and performance is advised.

Data analytics
Medical providers accumulate a massive amount of data on a daily basis. Big data may be a buzzword, but it's very much a reality in modern-day medical practices. For large hospital systems, the sheer computer power required to provide meaningful analysis is immense.

Hosted analytics platforms are paving the way for smaller organizations to benefit from big data as well. With a specialized cloud configuration, large data sets can be handled and processed for clinical research and patient insights.

Cloud collaboration
One of the cornerstones of patient-centric healthcare is taking down the walls that have traditionally inhibited communication and collaboration. The more multiple experts and organizations (i.e. hospital, primary care physician and specialist) take a holistic approach to find the right treatment plan for a patient, the less likely the patient is to be frustrated by the "system."

Cloud computing enables this type of collaborative environment and focus. A cloud-based medical records system allows physicians and medical practices to share information faster than ever, enabling better communication between involved parties.

Cloud technologies have the ability to connect an increasingly mobile world. From enabling access to information (records, clinical studies, etc.) from multiple devices to connecting patients in remote areas to physicians via video conferences, mobile and the cloud technologies complement each other as healthcare moves toward greater connectedness.

Final thoughts
The healthcare field is undergoing a tremendous growth spurt driven by the Affordable Care Act; approximately 16 million Americans have gained health insurance since the ACA became law in 2010. With more patients to care for than ever before, healthcare providers need to be smarter and more efficient in their operations and care delivery.

In leveraging the power of the cloud - and utilizing the healthcare specific software and other technologies - the healthcare industry can work toward greater goals of providing patient-centered care and growing business lines and services.

More Stories By Kristin Hambelton

Kristin Hambelton is responsible for leading marketing and inside sales at Evariant. She oversees all marketing strategy and operations including product marketing, branding, demand generation, and corporate communications. She also manages the team that is responsible for identifying, qualifying, and developing opportunities for the sales organization.

Prior to joining Evariant, Kristin worked for Adobe as a result of their acquisition of Neolane, where she served as vice president of marketing. She was part of the executive team that drove significant year-over-year growth, leading to the sale of the company to Adobe for $600M. Prior to Neolane, she held marketing leadership roles at IDC, Kronos, and Digital Equipment Corporation. She has been recognized for her achievements by several organizations, including a Bronze Stevie Award for Female Business Executive of the Year and Sales Lead Management Association's 20 Women to Watch.

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