There's more to the cloud computing model than upfront savings and the elimination of hardware expenses. Leading health systems, in fact, are finding ways to harness infrastructure-as-a-service for fueling innovations they otherwise could not afford.
"The cloud has dropped the cost of innovation of ideas and lowered the barrier to entry when it comes to innovating," said Todd Dunn, director of innovation at Intermountain Healthcare’s Transformation Lab. "It has changed the economics and speed of what we’re able to do – it’s really quite powerful."
Intermountain, for instance, piloted the Tissue Analytics app, which caregivers can use to snap a picture of a wound that more accurately measures size and color than the human eye typically can. It also keeps a longitudinal record of the exam, stored in the cloud.
"We were able to do a proof of concept for four weeks and did not have to buy the infrastructure," Dunn said. "Ten years ago we wouldn’t have been able to do that and neither would the developers."
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That ability to spin a server up on Amazon, use it for testing or piloting and then take it down is also enabling young companies such as Area 1 Security. Intermountain partnered with the cloud-based service to monitor its networks and preempt targeted phishing attacks, which enables clinicians to be better stewards of health data and, in turn, better care for patients.
That innovative scenario also creates a pipeline of startups that Dunn said are great candidates for acquisition — and it enables in-house projects as well.
Intermountain, for instance, created ProComp to help control and reduce the cost of surgical expenses.
"We are going to commercialize that as a cloud offering," Dunn explained. "Anyone who buys ProComp doesn’t need their own infrastructure. Less money spent on infrastructure can be used for improving patient care."
To drive these and other innovations, Intermountain put in place an Innovation Process Model similar to those it and other hospitals have for clinical process models to manage conditions, such as diabetes or sepsis.
"Now we have a biz development and commercialization group," Dunn said. "You need to set aside time and people – it’s that commitment to making things happen."
Dunn explained that the Innovation Process Model serves as the communication bridge between the innovation group and clinical operators to ensure that technologies and tools being developed are related to and effectively aligned with the organization’s broader mission.
The Innovation Process Model also filters how Intermountain chooses which companies to work with and includes all the steps it goes through to kickoff a proof of concept or pilot — including whether to host the work on-premise or in the cloud.
"The cloud has changed the breadth and depth of innovation," said Dunn. "What it has enabled from a business model and user innovation perspective has absolutely changed the game. It has enabled broader and deeper collaboration unlike any technology we’ve seen, and it has stepped up innovation because it enables experiments to happen at a rapid rate."
The Cloud Computing Forum at HIMSS17 is slated to take place on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. HIMSS17 runs from Feb. 19-23, 2017 at the Orange County Convention Center.
This article is part of our ongoing coverage of HIMSS17. Visit Destination HIMSS17 for previews, reporting live from the show floor and after the conference.