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Digital Healthcare Needs To Evolve, and the Cloud Is the Catalyst
By Kavita Khandhadia
Kavita Khandhadia is Amazon Web Services program manager for Infostretch of Santa Clara, CA.
The continued impact of the connected society means there is an increased need for decision makers to understand not only why digitalization matters, but where it can most benefit their companies. Digital evolution and maturity are key differentiators in most industry sectors, many of which are adapting to the demands of their customers and integrating the technology required.
This ongoing focus on a required digital transformation is hardly breaking news, but the decision to become more cloud-centric has particular significance for the healthcare and life sciences (HCLS) industry.
For organizations that are looking to move the digital journey forward, it’s a case of when and not if. In many cases, business optimization strategies have become increasingly cloud-based, with a consensus among analysts and researchers that HCLS companies that integrate cloud platforms and services into their existing workflows will be best placed to scale, innovate, and launch.
The events of the last 18 months shone a spotlight on where digital healthcare is and where must improve. Over the last decade, the digitalization of legacy processes within the healthcare industry has moved at a steady pace, albeit that patient wellness is more likely to reflect physical as opposed to virtual insights.
The need for effective digital solutions becomes more apparent when you consider that the adoption of recent technologies within the sector as whole can often be labeled as a work-in-progress. HCLS companies, for example, have been both quick to accept the need for change and hampered by what needs to be done.
A research note by Gartner – Innovation Insight for Digital Health Platform (DHP) – applauded the “heroic efforts” that healthcare companies and providers had made to adopt innovative technologies, including virtual care and improvements to monolithic legacy systems such as electronic health records (EHR). The caveat was that the fundamental shift required was some way in the future.
However, the analyst noted that digital expectations of patients would lead to 75% of health providers reducing reliance on “EHR-native applications to deliver better experiences and outcomes, and improve efficiencies.”
That’s great news for digital healthcare, but it’s worth remembering that the technologies required to build a DHP are already part of existing wellness strategies. For example, companies that have integrated cloud solutions have access to data and predictive analytics while digital twins, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are having an impact on clinical and operational decisions.
The question that needs to be asked is whether the increased awareness of cloud-centric healthcare offerings will be the catalyst for the next stage of digital healthcare.
The simple answer is that access to platforms such as AWS Cloud is both changing the conversation over what modern wellness can be and how patient-centric cloud solutions are the future of healthcare itself.
A powerful argument for cloud migration is understanding that a culture of healthcare innovation already exists. Purpose-built HCLS offerings are part of the AWS for Health suite of solutions, for instance.
However, the concerns that have always been part of any cloud migration are often cited as reasons to maintain the status quo.
Healthcare remains not only a very traditional industry but also one that is subject to a plethora of regulatory requirements. And while the need for digital transformation may not seem as pronounced as it would be in, say, retail, the challenges of cloud migration can literally be the difference between life and death.
In many cases, the concerns are the usual suspects – security and governance, cost and time, workloads, solution availability, and cloud maturity.
When you invest in a cloud strategy, you are giving up a certain amount of control. Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of compute power, database, storage, applications, and other IT services through a cloud services platform.
For instance, AWS is responsible for the security of the cloud (the protection of the infrastructure itself) while the customer provides security in the cloud (platform, applications, identity and access management). Known as the Shared Responsibility Model, this simple arrangement can be a daunting prospect for healthcare companies who have relied on their legacy infrastructure and working processes to maintain compliance and regional regulatory requirements.
Cost and time are also considered to be one of the main reasons for being hesitant about cloud migration. Companies may feel that the expense and potential downtime of cloud migration may not be worth it, despite all evidence pointing to the savings that can be achieved by moving to a cloud-based solution – migration can mean that a company focuses on products and innovations as opposed to maintaining an entire infrastructure and related applications.
And we must not overlook the importance of defined workloads. HCLS relies on data management and regulatory compliance, while the nature of the services companies provide requires low latency and processing requirements on a local level. That provides an additional challenge, even more so when these digital workloads must respond as quickly as possible to a patient or provider requirement.
However, the HCLS sectors are well placed to take advantage of cloud migration. Companies and providers are increasingly data-driven and already looking to digitally transform – the global healthcare market will be worth $11.9 trillion by the end of 2022, a recent industry report said – so it follows that patient wellness will be subject to the digital experiences that are part of the connected society.
Digital healthcare’s evolution has been years in the making. Providers and patients have become more digitally aware in recent years, because the tools required to make health-related decisions are now available.
What matters is how HCLS both integrates the solutions that exist and invests in ones that can make a difference to the physical and virtual services provided.
COVID-19 was not the catalyst for digital transformation that people wanted, but the industry became focused on how digital healthcare could move forward. Cloud migration is one part of the puzzle, the companies that understand this will be able to deliver the right patient and wellness outcomes.