In 2018, Accenture estimated that only 35% of healthcare IT workloads were housed in a public cloud environment. Later that year, a survey of hospital CIOs further showed just how reluctant healthcare leaders were to trust the cloud with sensitive patient data. Only about 18% said that more than half of their current software infrastructure was in the cloud. Although 60% listed moving more workloads to the cloud as a top 10 priority, less than a third had a transition plan in place.
Much has changed since 2018 and 2020 accelerated the adoption of cloud technology in healthcare.
How 2020 changed the way healthcare uses technology
Back in 2018, most people in IT thought the cloud migration would be a slow march for healthcare. After all, healthcare organizations are managing some of the most sensitive data there is. Amounts vary, but medical records can command even higher prices on the dark web than personal financial data.
What we couldn’t foresee was the impact 2020 – and the COVID-19 pandemic – would have on the healthcare industry. To protect the health of vulnerable patients while providing greater services, healthcare providers significantly increased their adoption of several key technologies.
#1 Online prescreening
No doubt, anyone who’s contacted a healthcare provider in recent months has run across an online prescreening questionnaire. Providers need to determine whether the patient’s symptoms indicate a possible COVID-19 infection so they could appropriately protect themselves and non-infected patients while providing proper care.
#2 Increased telehealth visits
Some healthcare providers were already providing telehealth services in certain situations, e.g., helping nervous new parents through their baby’s first fever. But telehealth wasn’t something most providers or patients saw as a replacement for in-person visits.
By June of 2020, however, respondents to a survey of healthcare providers conducted by McKinsey said they were conducting 50 to 175 times the number of telehealth visits than they did prior to COVID-19. Apparently, with positive results as 57% noted that they now view telehealth more favorably.
#3 Stepped up online patient engagement
In 2018, a survey of nearly 1,800 healthcare organizations conducted by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) found that 90% were already offering patient portal access. Unfortunately, according to data from the government accountability office, less than a third of patients were using these portals. The numbers aren’t in from 2020 yet, but with patients increasingly willing to use telehealth services to avoid face-to-face contact, we expect they’ll be making greater use of patient portal services as well.
#4 Follow up questionnaires
Follow up visits have long been recognized as a strategy for decreasing revisits and improving outcomes. Now, they’re also a way to collect more data on the symptoms, spread, and long-term effects of COVID-19. This data has also lead to an increased acceptance of web-based data analytics among healthcare providers.
#5 Remote monitoring
Remote monitoring of patient vital signs was already on the rise, but some providers were skeptical of using the data from consumer devices as part of a comprehensive health care plan. COVID-19 seems to have broken down those barriers.
For example, a hospital in New York has launched a program monitoring orthopedic patients through the Apple Watch. The FDA has approved a mHealth (mobile health) app to treat those that suffer from traumatic nightmares. Even MIT researchers have gotten into the act with a mHealth app that detects signs of COVID in the mobile device wearer’s cough patterns.
#6 Better collaboration
The healthcare industry has been steadily pushing the digitization of health records as a way to improve outcomes. For example, if a patient sees one physician for treatment of a foot ulcer, it’d be helpful for the provider to know the patient has also been seeing a primary care physician for a pre-diabetic condition.
However, with so many disparate systems, the dream of one central repository for patient data has proven elusive. The global pandemic has renewed interest in addressing the interoperability issue that has plagued EHR (electronic health records) initiatives.
But what’s the underlying technology behind all six of these key patient solutions? Cloud computing.
Cloud Computing is essential to modernizing Healthcare
It’ll be some time before we truly understand the effects of COVID-19 on our culture and our businesses, but many are already speculating about what those lasting impacts might be. No doubt, as with telehealth services, many providers and patients will grow accustomed to electronic healthcare services. If these services help improve outcomes and lower costs, the change could happen much faster than we think.
Also read: How Businesses Pivoted During Covid-19
IDC predicted that the quantity of healthcare data would see a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36% through 2025. It’ll be interesting to see how these figures are adjusted as healthcare providers take advantage of new technologies to provide care during the pandemic. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a dramatic spike once the 2020-21 numbers are in.
There is one technology underlying it all that isn’t so new: cloud computing. Healthcare providers need a secure, accessible place to store all that data. They also need it to be cost-effective, a goal the traditional on-premises data center typically fails to achieve.
It’ll be especially interesting to see the new data on cloud adoption by healthcare organizations over the next year. If our healthcare customers are any indication, we could be on the cusp of a pretty dramatic industry transformation.
Adopt the cloud with a trusted provider
Moving to the cloud doesn’t need to be difficult. Working with a managed services provider can help you move to the cloud effectively while allowing your internal IT resources to focus on enhancing patient digital experiences. A managed services provider can also help you manage rapid data growth, secure patient data, streamline your IT infrastructure, and more. Learn more about Healthcare IT solutions and data recovery with TierPoint.