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Cloud-driven healthcare: How patients stand to benefit

A look at cloud-based healthcare services from the patient perspective.

Healthcare organisations can use cloud computing to drive down costs and to increase the scale and rate at which they analyse information. But what do such changes mean for customers? What do cloud-based healthcare services look like from the patient perspective?

One thing is for certain - most of the healthcare organisations that patients interact with will be using the cloud very soon, according to HIMMS Analytics. The researcher suggests 92 per cent of healthcare providers see the value of cloud services for their organisations, either now or in the not-too-distant future.

Exclusive research on cloud priorities by ZDNet and TechRepublic suggests 40 per cent of IT leaders, including executives from the healthcare sector, understand the importance of the cloud as a core capability to create real competitive advantage.

For patients, this change to on-demand IT might not create an immediate difference. Healthcare will still involve face-to-face interactions with trained specialists. Treatment will still rely on a broad range of therapies and medications.

But what will change are the underlying mechanisms of healthcare, as professionals within the sector start to rely more on the cloud to help them complete tasks. The big benefits for patients include quick diagnosis, proactive care, and effective long-term treatment.

Patients will want to be assured that their information is stored safely and used ethically. ZDNet and TechRepublic research suggests security remains a key concern for IT professional considering a move to the cloud. In line with industry best practice, healthcare organisations must work with trusted providers and look to implement encryption, access control, and staff training techniques.

With back-end security in place, healthcare organisations can then start to use the cloud to improve patient care at the front end. By placing information in the cloud, health professionals can access and analyse test results quickly, sometimes even in real-time. They can also compare results between patients and hospitals, allowing rapid diagnosis and treatment.

Quick diagnosis is not the only benefit. By being able to run detailed business intelligence against cloud-based data repositories, health researchers can identify trends and treat diseases proactively, possibly even before patients show signs of illness. Leading organisations, such as Virginia Tech, are already exploring how the cloud can create huge advances in genome monitoring.

Beyond proactive alerts and diagnosis, the cloud can also help patients to receive better long-term healthcare. IT professionals can use the cloud to collaborate, sharing best practice remedies and treatments. By matching case evidence with individual genetic patterns, healthcare professionals can create targeted treatments for each patient.

From diagnosis through to treatment, we are reaching a tipping point where advances in monitoring and analysis will produce huge benefits for patients - and cloud computing represents the key enabler for pushing that movement forwards.