As consumers, we enjoy so many options that give us more control over almost every aspect of our lives: We order carry-out and rides from our phones and watch TV shows and movies online whenever we please. We chat virtually with friends and family around the globe. Of course, major cloud-based infrastructure makes all those services possible.
And within the past 10 years, we’ve watched eagerly as the cloud has proved to be a boon to medicine, helping hospitals and providers become more effective and efficient while increasing patient engagement and satisfaction.
There’s no going back: The future of healthcare IT is in the cloud. As more and more older, legacy software systems shift to cloud-based services, even the newest healthcare apps are being developed for cloud use only.
Opening the Patient Portal
Patient portals represent one of the most common use cases for cloud-based healthcare technology today, but they’ve been around for nearly a decade. When first introduced, portals mostly served as a clearinghouse for general patient information. Today, they are fully interactive: Patients can fill out forms, view test results and send secure messages to their doctors whenever, and from wherever, they want.
Portals offer far more than convenience. They can also reduce office visits and increase patient health outcomes, as this study from Kaiser Permanente shows.
Telemedicine — secure audio or video communication between patients and providers — also represents a growing trend, one that’s improved by 50 percent since 2013 according to the American Telemedicine Association. Used in cases ranging from mental health care to the monitoring of chronic conditions, telemedicine has proved especially useful in instances when meeting with a physician in person is difficult.
The Virtual Care Center, for instance, a unit of the Missouri-based Mercy Health System, provides remote support for intensive care units and emergency rooms in 38 smaller hospitals. Mercy physicians can provide virtual consultations, observe patients via camera and work with onsite staff to give orders remotely. The ICUs monitored by Mercy have reduced patient stays by 35 percent and reduced expected deaths by 30 percent.
Coming Soon: Wearables
Millions of people use fitness trackers, and their use within healthcare continues to evolve. Wearable products may still be a few years away from more common use in healthcare, however, because they must first go through a rigorous FDA approval process.
A few amazing devices have already been approved, giving us a glimpse of other, future possibilities:
- An EKG device taped to a patient’s body uses a sensor to give providers a real-time view of cardiovascular activity.
- A wearable glucose meter sends readings and alerts to a patient’s smartphone. The patient can then share that data with his or her physician.
- A sensor placed on a patient’s body can help hospitals reduce the incidence of pressure ulcers, which may occur when patients remain in one position for too long. A sensor tracks patient movements and relays information to the hospital staff, who can in turn encourage patients to change positions or manually turn patients as necessary.
- Wearables’ future in senior care also appears especially promising. CDW has worked closely with facilities such as Masonicare to pilot wearable technology and develop best practices. (Learn more in CDW’s white paper “Helping Seniors Stay Healthy.”)
What’s in Cloud’s Future?
As new technology evolves and consumer and provider adoption of cloud-based services takes root, clinics and hospitals should evaluate and upgrade IT services sooner rather than later to determine where deficiencies or gaps in infrastructure may prevent fuller, more robust deployments.
The advantages of cloud-based services — increased productivity, efficiency, lower costs and improved patient outcomes — have been proved time and again. CDW’s recent white paper, “Healthcare Technology and the Patient Journey,” includes more in-depth information on cloud-based services and how healthcare organizations, both large and small, can adopt and customize their cloud uses.
As healthcare IT shifts more of its services to the cloud, the possibilities continue to expand. Where is your organization on this journey?