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A new era for the healthcare industry: Cloud computing changes the game

Discover five key ways cloud computing is changing the game in the global healthcare industry.

Overview

 

Healthcare is learning from other industries, such as financial services, about unlocking the benefits of cloud without compromising data security.

As healthcare leaders weigh opportunities and risks, they can be sure their competitors are doing the same. Many are moving rapidly to incorporate the cloud in IT systems, data processing and other areas.

Those who fail to move quickly face losing competitive edge, which could translate into lost customers and market share. As in any major change in business, early movers tend to reap the lion’s share of benefits.

Traditionally, technology infrastructure and systems have been highly fragmented across the healthcare industry. It’s been typified by a piecemeal approach amid concerns over data security. But that’s changing.

The healthcare industry’s migration to the cloud is inevitable—it’s driven by an irresistible blend of competitive realities and patient demand.

Analysis

Much of the core industry infrastructure in healthcare worldwide is either non-existent or has lacked investment, often because it is funded by restricted government budgets.

As a result, there’s an urgent and pent-up need for technology renewal. The cloud can enable this to happen without a massive up-front investment.

This development is also being encouraged by regulation. Given the diverse, fragmented and highly dispersed nature of the healthcare industry and value chain, the effect of cloud computing will be magnified by the convergence between cloud, mobility and data analytics.

Through the combination of these three elements, many of the game-changing impacts will emerge.

In the healthcare sector, technology infrastructure and systems have traditionally been highly fragmented across the industry. Most have been managed in-house behind strong firewalls, reflecting a combination of piecemeal, bespoke development and concerns over data security.

This sector is now learning from other industries, such as financial services, about harnessing the cost and agility benefits of cloud without compromising data security. Accenture’s own experience underlines this: We are currently conducting a significant number of cloud assessments in the industry, with many players set to start moving healthcare-related applications to cloud platforms in the coming months.

Key Findings

We see five ways cloud computing, combined with mobility and analytics, will change healthcare:

  • Creating the agility for providers and insurers to collaborate at low cost and high speed, meet changing regulations and deliver better patient services.

  • Helping ensure seamless, personalized care anywhere in the world, through ubiquitous and secure data sharing.

  • Shifting the locus of chronic healthcare from the hospital or clinic to the home, and delivering better patient care at a lower cost.

  • Harnessing “big data” in the cloud and combining that with other tools, such as social media, to improve public health through preventative well-being monitoring and encouraging healthier lifestyles.

  • Transforming access to health services in emerging markets without heavy investment in physical hospitals and clinical centers.

Over time, today’s individual forms of cloud computing will evolve into a model known as “Everything-as-a-Service” (XaaS), in which all infrastructure, services and processes are provided from the cloud.

Recommendations

As healthcare stakeholders’ comfort levels with the cloud increase, they’ll realize a number of benefits. 

Our maturity model (see below) can help health industry leaders identify opportunities and plan the appropriate steps. We’ve divided the cloud journey into four main phases:

  • Experimentation—Focusing on quick “wins” in niche functional areas that lend themselves to cloud advantages, including lower cost and quicker time-to-market.

  • Foundation building—Laying out basic digital infrastructure to enable secure data-sharing among stakeholders.

  • Optimization—Applying data insights to optimize clinical workflow and personalize care plans.

  • Innovation—Enabling new care models based on seamless collaboration among care team members as well as patients.

Healthcare organizations of all sizes will need to figure out how to orchestrate various cloud services and in-house systems.

Increasingly, their needs will be fulfilled by the in-house IT function or an external provider playing the role of “services broker.”

We recommend businesses look holistically at their entire IT system and seek ways to simplify it.

The more a business can simplify its IT architecture and services, the better positioned it will be for the migration to cloud. This may mean virtualizing infrastructure as a first step and dropping applications that are redundant or seldom-used.

Generally speaking, our experience shows the value of investing now to save money in the future. That certainly applies to the cloud.

Cloud Maturity Model for the Healthcare Industry

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