The cloud has really taken off the last few years and is transforming healthcare for the better. This falls right in line with the theme for this very important week in the healthcare industry: NHIT Week. As we keep the conversation going on the value of health IT, let’s turn our attention to cloud technology, which is most certainly changing healthcare for the better.

Cloud technologies, no matter how defined, have enabled healthcare providers to focus on tasks related to improving patient safety and care versus just keeping the data center lights on. From connecting patients to providers via technologies like patient portals and telehealth, to enhancing clinical collaboration, cloud technologies across the spectrum are changing the way healthcare is being delivered and obtained. Other uses cases for cloud include things like cancer research and drug modeling — it’s an exciting time in healthcare! Cloud technology, due to its inherent ability to quicken time-to-market and its scalability, has allowed healthcare organizations to accomplish research and develop new applications more quickly than ever.

When it comes to the patient experience, healthcare providers are leveraging the cloud in a multitude of ways. For example, providers are offering patient portals for accessing and sharing data through the cloud or delivering on-demand video-doctor (telehealth) calls for non-urgent care like behavioral health and dermatology. These new communication tools — thanks to the cloud — enhance collaboration between providers and patients, help increase patient satisfaction, and facilitate more proactive patients who are also more in charge of their care. In addition, the cloud can assist with providing a central repository of information so clinicians have the most up-to-date information at the point of care, which translates to more efficiency and productivity at the bedside during treatment.

There are new ways the cloud can be leveraged that healthcare providers should keep in mind, including Big Data modeling and analytics, and harnessing the cloud to analyze data and information and tie into wearables. Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) and Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) (i.e., hosted VDI), while not new technologies, are additional areas healthcare providers could look to the cloud to lean on where they traditionally haven’t in the past. DRaaS can help minimize costly on-premises data center infrastructure costs while allowing for the agility needed to run applications in the event of a disaster, and DaaS allows for access to applications anywhere — improving clinical productivity, but saving on the traditional storage and infrastructure costs that VDI typically requires.

Over the next few years, the cloud will have tighter alignment to the Internet of Things (IoT). As consumer expectations continue to drive interest in wearables, you’ll see the IoT enable greater use of patient monitoring powered by the cloud to analyze data points, leading to better preventive care. Also, although not always recognized as a cloud technology, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is the greatest area of cloud adoption. SaaS is not new to providers — I foresee most healthcare organizations leveraging it through programs like Office365, Box and Adobe, to name a few. In addition, cloud, SaaS and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) will be viewed more as an extension of a healthcare provider’s primary data center (versus “cloud and unknown technology”). As I said, it’s an exciting time in healthcare, where the cloud holds great promise!

To keep up with all our NHIT Week activities, be sure to follow @CDW_Healthcare on Twitter or follow our LinkedIn Showcase page. For more information on cloud technology, visit our cloud collaboration page on CommunIT.

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