Opinion: How the cloud benefits your healthcare workforce
Many people are familiar with the benefits of the cloud and whether you realise it or not, the majority of us are already using cloud services of some description, be it Gmail, Dropbox or Office 365.
While healthcare is an industry that is commonly known for resisting change, entrepreneurial products and services, first adopters and government legislation for healthcare information and data privacy are driving a change from paper-based to digital record keeping. This in turn is allowing a further transition from reliance on on-premise resources to a more collaborative environment in the cloud.
At this point we are aware of the elevator pitch on cloud adoption, where cost reduction, pay-as-you-go subscription models, scalability, flexibility and automated back-ups are just some of the benefits involved. While all of these are certainly true, healthcare professionals care about the tangible benefits in their practice or clinic. Will this benefit my business? If so, how? Will my staff require training? What processes are open to improvement? Will it increase the bottom line at year end?
There is no one-size fits all answer to these questions as each business will operate differently from the next. Cloud service providers that specialise in healthcare will be very familiar with the problems facing healthcare professionals, whether they are in the process of scanning paper-based records to digital, have completed this process and are wondering how to improve efficiency, or are looking to utilise the cloud to roll out additional patient services.
Whatever stage you are at it is worth discussing your options with an experienced professional who can offer advice that suits your business.
Assuming you are interested in future-proofing your business using the latest technology, the cloud offers specific advantages that make your business easier to manage.
When medical files and data are hosted securely on the cloud it means that any member of your healthcare workforce can use and access centralised data, which reduces administration costs and increases the speed of clinical service delivery. It is worth mentioning that when data is on the cloud, it can be accessed from anywhere by those with the correct user permissions.
All that is needed is internet access and a web browser. In other words, even when not on site, authenticated users can view, add or update existing information as if they were sitting at their office desks. Data availability at all times is key and avoids unnecessary delays when collaborating with fellow colleagues, specialists or patients. Alternatively, you could use fax or perhaps a courier?
Data availability is key to successful mobile deployment and both are needed to allow the creation of on-the-move mobile clinics, which are becoming increasingly popular, given that many patients are located hours from their nearest healthcare provider. The use of mobile clinics allows healthcare professionals to go on tour, much like a rock band but without the noise, and provide first-rate care to their patients as all the information they need is available on the cloud.
Add the necessary medical equipment and clinical staff and it is no different from the level of care offered in a brick and mortar practice. It is also cheaper than leasing multiple business premises to cater for a small population in each location. Mobility in this case is more than just smartphone or tablet access but the facility to create a mobile version of your clinic headquarters.
Administration and practice management take up a substantial amount of each working day. Or, at least it used to. Nowadays, many clinics use practice management software for administration tasks and clinical software to handle patient medical records, including x-rays and any other pertinent data.
When these are on the cloud, everything can be accessed remotely when necessary, saving time and improving efficiency. A specialist can update records or view appointments during a commute to work or during lunch. No training is required as the practice and clinical software behaves in exactly the same way as in would in the office.
When everything is available online, the clinic will find it much easier to outsource talent when needed. From answering calls using a call centre service during busy periods, to hiring IT talent or additional administration staff, your business presence on the cloud allows more flexibility than is possible using a single on-premise IT infrastructure.
You can select the most qualified applicant from any location, if you open to remote working and many companies are. IT professionals, for example, can maintain your on-premise IT structure and also the cloud by performing updates, security checks and back-ups.
They can do all this remotely, saving your company the expense of an on-site and salaried IT support staff. The same is true of administration. If qualified, is it really necessary to travel to your premises when the same work can be performed remotely?
All of the above sounds great, right? It is only a fraction of the potential benefits available as telehealth, remote consults, video conferencing and more have not been discussed. Suffice to say, any clinic can make the necessary changes and promote themselves as innovative and forward-thinking.
Unfortunately, not all make the transition successfully, as they sometimes rely on poor advice or retain IT service providers that lack experience in the cloud or healthcare or even both. Service providers that lack the skills are unlikely to recommend solutions they are unfamiliar with.
Therefore, before making any decisions, contact a service provider that focuses on healthcare clients, can support on-premise and cloud solutions with their own team and can offer advice that suits your business alone and not all businesses.
Before calling, think about your existing processes, how you would like to improve them and outline any concerns or objectives you may have. These can include compliance, security, cost or worries about integrating existing hardware and software into a cloud environment. An ethical provider will conduct an on-site audit to identify the best approach for your business and outline a range of options for selection.
As government regulations evolve for data privacy, security and storage of medical records, can you afford not to be on the cloud?
Rob Khamas is an eHealth solutions strategist with REND Tech Associates.