Why health orgs are embracing cloud to improve physician and patient experience

Cloud can make technology invisible – something that often improves the work and lives of people who use it.
By Tom Sullivan
08:55 AM
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Experience. Whether it’s about patients or clinicians, one thing that’s clear is that health insurers and providers, from solo practices to large systems, must improve the experience they deliver or risk losing consumers and employees.

Leading organizations are already headed in that direction and many of them are harnessing cloud apps or services to make it happen.

The beauty of invisible tech

At its most elemental, the cloud can be used to “re-humanize rather than de-humanize healthcare,” said David Vawdrey, vice president for analytics and clinical systems at NewYork-Presbyterian.

That’s because the cloud model by its very nature can “drive simplicity to front-stage actions and complexity behind the line of invisibility,” according to Antonio Melo, director of Humana’s digital experience center. 

“We’re interested in providing care where people spend the majority or a lot of their time. How do we reinvent who is improving care in the home? How do we create contextually relevant experiences for what might be considered low-level care?” Melo continued. “You’re seeing a shift from an institution-first model to a person-first model.”

Ashish Sharma, an associate professor in the biomedical informatics department at Emory University, agreed that making the technology invisible to users is also part of the cloud’s allure.

“Our clinicians don’t care how the technology actually works,” Sharma said. “What they see is how the data is presented, how they can consume it and do something with that information.”

Vawdrey added that NYP is striving to “provide a more comfortable, relaxed environment, where caregivers can deliver high-quality, high-satisfaction care for low acuity patients.”

Partner with cloud vendors

Turning to the cloud to bolster clinician and patient experience, or for other reasons as well, is not as simple as signing up for a software-as-a-service offering, of course. There are contract considerations, business associate agreements to iron out, data governance and location, just to tip the iceberg.

But the work also presents an opportunity to partner more with the tech vendors than many hospitals and insurers have done in the past.

“The old relationship between hospital and vendor is changing — in the old days providers had to create tech themselves, our focus is clinical care, not so much about technology,” said Adrian Zai, director of research at Partners HealthCare.

Zai added that for providers and payers, technology is merely a means to an end but for vendors it’s their area of expertise. “We should be moving from a client-vendor relationship to a partnership because IT vendors need clinical organizations to test, build, iterate their product to make them relevant and to grow and impact patient care.”  

What’s more, bringing everyone together to work on designing systems and leveraging clinical expertise will ultimately drive better outcomes.

IaaS: A big focus moving forward

It’s well-known at this point that many organizations have more cloud apps than they know about — literally several hundred according to research from Symantec at — and that the cloud market is projected to grow considerably in the next few years.

Gartner, in fact, estimates it will reach $206 billion in three years, while IDC has said that cloud computing will change the nature of IT shops, transforming them into lines of business that procure services instead of conducting them in-house.

Patient and clinician experience won’t come from a single app but investing in proofs-of-concepts and pilot programs that develop iteratively to improve people’s lives in the age of consumerism. That’s where infrastructure-as-a-service offerings in the cloud come into play.

“IaaS is the fastest growing segment of cloud,” said Janet King, senior director of market insights at HIMSS Media. “It is expected to double over the next three years as current infrastructure gets refreshed and disruptive technology trends like IoT and AI fuel demand for increased data storage and computing power.”

Twitter: @SullyHIT
Email the writer: tom.sullivan@himssmedia.com