I am a strong proponent of tapping into the Cloud to solve healthcare problems. Both myself and Zoli, at different instances, have written about Cloud based healthcare initiatives by Google and Microsoft in this blog. Even though the progress on both Google Health and Microsoft Healthvault services are disturbingly slow, we need the big players to step in along with the government to accelerate the use of cloud computing in the healthcare. When Barack Obama won the election last year, I wrote the following after studying his technology blueprint
Broad adoption of standards based health record systems: This is nothing but a healthcare SaaS system. Companies like Google and Microsoft are already pushing such apps to the users. If the insurance companies and healthcare providers come on board and help put patients data on the Cloud, the way we do healthcare will change forever. It will help us get better healthcare as our data will always be accessible from anywhere in the country at anytime.
Feds are embracing clouds and open standards in a big way. With the Healthcare reform bill becoming a reality, it is just a matter of time before they take up the electronic health records seriously. This implies a larger role for IT companies to step in and come up with innovative solutions for healthcare.
Recently, I came across a blog post by Steve Beller, President/CEO of National Health Data Systems, Inc, on different IT architecture that will be useful for healthcare. One of them is Cloud Computing and he points out to different use cases.
Taking security into account, use cases for the cloud computing architecture include:
- Providing access to browser-based EHRs and EMRs with end-to-end encryption in either: 1) Tightly controlled private clouds 2)Non-private clouds only if the patient identifiers are stored in encrypted data files (in the cloud or in local storage).
- Storing de-identified patient data in centralized databases for public access or for restricted access by authorized persons (e.g., for research purposes).
- Storing practice guidelines in public clouds.
- Home monitoring, whereby data from measurement devices (e.g., a glucometer) are streamed to a provider’s private cloud with end-to-end encryption.
- CRM, business intelligence, content management and research-based applications in private clouds with end-to-end encryption.
- Hosting Web conferences to dispersed audiences.
- Enabling real-time collaboration in private clouds with patient data encrypted end-to-end or in public clouds with de-identified patient data only.
Some of them above are fine use cases and the industry should be using them already. I see lots of potential for healthcare in the cloud and, in my opinion, it not only makes the access to healthcare ubiquitous but also cuts down the costs drastically, something all of us, cutting across the political system, want to happen.
Today, IBM announced that they are jumping into the healthcare business under their “Smarter Planet” branding. They are collaborating with Taiwan’s publicly funded Industrial Technology Research Institute to set up a collaboratory at Taipei. The goal of the collaboratory will be focused on using technologies — including cloud computing, analytics and mobile devices — to advance wellness-centric healthcare that manages diseases more efficiently and effectively to keep people healthier.
In announcing this joint venture, IBM clearly highlights the role of Cloud Computing in healthcare.
Cloud computing will serve as the foundation for much of the collaboratory’s work in areas such as sensor data collection, record sharing, analysis, and diagnostics. The cloud computing model is suited to healthcare applications due to the volume of dynamic and diverse sources of information. Cloud computing can help Taiwan clinicians and hospitals coordinate and exchange information more efficiently. These flexible networks will be scalable in integrating and sharing services and data, which will help reduce costs.
Clearly, Cloud Computing is important to streamline healthcare whether it is for maintaining health records, monitoring of patients, collaboration with peers, even analysis of data, etc.. I can foresee numerous possibilities in this field. With further maturation of security in Cloud Computing, we will see more and more of healthcare tapping into the cloud. At the same time, the governments in different countries should smarten up their regulatory policies to suit the modern technology so that both businesses and patients can take advantage of them.