Dec 20 2019

4 Ways Healthcare Is Being Transformed by the Cloud

From at-home monitoring to the automation of IT functions, the technology is bringing about a revolution in healthcare.

Healthcare is increasingly turning to the cloud. According to research from Global Market Insights, the North American healthcare cloud-computing market surpassed $8.5 billion in 2018, and the global market could exceed $55 billion by 2025.

That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been turbulence along the way, particularly when it comes to the public cloud.

The Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Index 2019, based on a survey of 2,650 IT decision-makers in a variety of industries across the world, found that 73 percent of enterprises were migrating some of their applications back on-premises after finding the public cloud a poor fit for their needs. In fact, 85 percent indicated that the best fit for them was hybrid cloud — citing its flexibility and perceived superior security.

READ MORE: Discover five things made possible in healthcare thanks to the cloud.

No matter the operating model though, healthcare organizations have made astonishing strides in improving care by employing the cloud. Here are four ways the cloud is making a dramatic difference for patients and staff alike:

1. Cloud Improves the Ability to Monitor Medically Fragile Outpatients

Dr. Girish Shirali, a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas City, in Missouri, developed an app that is helping to keeping babies alive. Powered by Microsoft and hosted in Azure, the app allows parents of children born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a serious medical condition requiring multiple surgeries, to upload a range of data several times a day. 

Before the application, parents had to log the infant’s vital signs in a three-ring binder and call the hospital to provide that information weekly; a quarter of HLHS patients died before their second surgery at 6 months of age.

“It was a reactive model,” Lori Erickson, a nurse practitioner, told Microsoft Transform. Children’s Mercy showed that their proactive remote monitoring model made a dramatic difference in outcomes; in fact, in the first two years of the program, the hospital did not lose a single HLHS patient.

2. Advanced Analytics Is Reducing Hospital Admissions

Another benefit of Children’s Mercy’s approach to HLHS care was a reduction in hospital admittances. The flow of real-time data allowed providers to see problems before they became emergencies.

Erickson gave the example of an infant whose weight gain pattern once would have led to hospitalization. By spotting the issue early, she worked with the parents to course-correct before it became serious.

And it’s not just the providers who learn to see problems coming — the system itself can learn.“Rather than the analysis simply telling us that saturation is low, [the system] could instead tell us that the risk of an adverse cardiac event in the next three days just went from 2 percent to 40 percent, and tell us why,” Shirali told Microsoft Transform. 

3. Cloud Platforms Free Up Valuable Time — and Money

Hospitals hold massive amounts of sensitive patient data, and it can be a headache for IT staff to keep every system patched and secure. That’s why Novant Health, based in Winston Salem, N.C., migrated its EHR system to a cloud platform in February of 2019. Since the move, the organization has seen ample benefits.

"We have freed up a tremendous amount of engineering resource time from having to manage that infrastructure,” James Kluttz, vice president and CTO of Novant Health, tells Becker’s Health IT & CIO Report. “We have been able to redeploy our resources to focus on business-driven initiatives. We've been able to realign our resources in unique ways that also drive even more cloud adoption.”

That change freed up not only staff but budget as well. With the move, the organization gained insight into what its future cost models would look like. Kluttz mentions that Novant has since “hit a home run,” staying on track with those models.

SIGN UP: Become an Insider for access to exclusive HealthTech videos, white papers and articles.

4. Cloud Reduces Downtime and Helps to Eliminate Sources of Error

Before merging with AMITA Health last year, Presence Health in Chicago adopted Nutanix Enterprise Cloud to help with their electronic medical records upgrade. The result was a responsive and robust system that gave care providers near immediate access to the information they needed, whenever they needed it.

The hospital’s EMR tracked workflow exceptions — unacceptable delays in accessing patient records — and the cloud helped the organization to immediately halve these.

“There was a dramatic improvement the day we cut over to Nutanix — the number of exceptions plummeted from 0.8 percent to just 0.4 percent,” said Jeremy Bernstein, then interim CTO of Presence Health, in a customer case study. The cloud also facilitated efficient communication among care team members and enabled the provider to implement barcode medication administration, helping to ensure everyone was consistently on the same page.

megaflopp/Getty Images

More On