Technological advancements in the healthcare sector have come with various key benefits in different operational aspects. One of the advances that have impacted the healthcare sector heavily is the use of cloud computing technologies. Substantial changes have occurred in various aspects of healthcare management, with the distribution of skills associated with various roles being at the forefront. The impacts of cloud computing in the healthcare sector are immense and warrant further exploration of the prospects of technology use in healthcare. For instance, benefits such as improved data security, advanced capability of remote diagnosis and increased value awareness are all associated with cloud use in the sector. The following paper sections highlight various aspects of cloud computing use in the healthcare sector. Such aspects include its impacts, the roles played by cloud computing in healthcare and healthcare management. The paper concludes by giving a recap on the concept of clouds in the healthcare sector with recommendations on how the sector can proceed in its consideration of the cloud concept.
Roles of Clouds in Healthcare
According to a report by Kuhrt (2016), the healthcare sector has increasingly adopted the use of cloud technology in the provision of various services. The technology is lauded for its capacity in the improvement of solutions to problems in the healthcare sector. In addition to this, healthcare value is also being increasingly recognized through the input of cloud technologies in the environment. CSCC explains the roles associated with cloud technologies in the healthcare sector. One of the roles mentioned is the provision of data security. In comparison to physical data storage in files and folders and in computers within the healthcare facility, cloud technology offers an opportunity for the sector to effectively store information without fear of corruption (CSCC, 2012).
Apart from data storage, CSCC also suggests that cloud technology is crucial in healthcare for communication purposes. In this regard, it is reported that doctors use text messaging as the most common form of communication among colleagues. However, this mode of communication is burdened with challenges such as loss of information privacy. Cloud technologies offers the opportunity for communication to be carried out through Apps which doctors download and use to communicate with others (CSCC, 2012). The advantage associated with this is that it enables doctors to use texts as a form of communication while also eliminating the probability of textual corruption which is prevalent in the use of text messages. Such communication also aids in telemedicine and in the provision of remote diagnosis where communication is used between doctors and patients (Cyhoeddus & Cymru, 2005). The use of cloud technology has thus enhanced medical practice through various features such as substantially changing the skill mix of healthcare professionals by constant communication. Change of professional roles and boundaries has also come about due to the use of cloud technologies.
Impacts of Cloud Technology on the Healthcare Sector
The use of cloud technologies in the healthcare sector has come with several key impacts. Most of the impacts that are highlighted in association with this technology are positive. The only negative impact highlighted by Kuhrt (2016) for instance, is that it involves high one-time costs during initial subscription and subsequent subscription practices. However, Kuhrt negates the implication of this impact through the assertion that being in the healthcare industry, the main objective is to provide healthcare services and not to provide data handling services. As such, the costs incurred in cloud computing could be translated into additional time for the accomplishment of healthcare objectives. The positive impacts on the other hand, include changing the environment of healthcare provision. From Kuhrt’s works, cloud technology has reshaped IT application in the healthcare sector from installation and running to management and coordination of data and information flow. Such change has placed healthcare organizations in the limelight regarding how they address their mandates through technology use.
Secondly, CSCC mentions that cloud technology has also reduced the costs incurred by organizations in their efforts to keep data and information safe. According to CSCC, the costs of purchasing both hardware and software are greater in comparison to subscription costs for cloud technologies. In addition to this, hardware and software purchase also come with needs for frequent replacement due to obsolescence. It can therefore be said that cloud technologies result in the elimination of obsolescence in the healthcare sector.
Other impacts associated with cloud technologies include: provision of on-demand access to data storage and computing, provision of support for enlarged data sets for the management of electronic health records (EHRs). One of the aspects of EHR that is enhanced by cloud technologies is information sharing among doctors both within and without the same hospital. This means that medical personnel can share information among themselves to help assist patients especially when they are far from their primary physicians. CSCC also suggests that cloud technologies improve the analytical and tracking capabilities of healthcare information systems (2012).
Challenges in the implementation of Cloud services in Healthcare
The use of cloud computing comes with various challenges associated with it. According to a study conducted by Cyhoeddus & Cymru (2005), most healthcare facilities who use cloud technologies reported facing the challenge of data portability. Cyhoeddus and Cymru suggest that the large amounts of data stored in cloud systems make it challenging to transfer between cloud service providers. This confines the cloud service access to singular service providers over long periods of time regardless of one’s perception of their service providers. Apart from this, cloud service users in the healthcare sector also face the challenge of integration and interoperability between physical onsite storage and cloud data storage. In cases where reference has to be made from both storage sites, it becomes difficult to integrate the two and achieve interoperability. Service reliability in the use of cloud technologies is also compromised as there are several factors that affect network connectivity.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Cloud technology has increased in its prevalence among healthcare facilities mainly due to the availability of large amounts of data in such facilities. Advancements in technologies such as through the use of electronic health recording makes cloud technology an even more necessary feature of healthcare service provision. The use of cloud technology comes with various key impacts such as reduced costs, elimination of obsolescence and enhanced communication through cloud based apps. On the negative side, the key disadvantage associated with cloud technology is the high costs of installation and subscription. This is however negated through the focus of healthcare and the countering reduction of operation costs. Implementation of cloud technologies in the healthcare sector does not come without challenges. Challenges such as difficulty in data portability, low service reliability and poor integration and interoperability are prevalent in cloud technology use.
Based on the features associated with cloud computing use in the healthcare sector, it is clear that besides the challenges, this technology has many impacts on the healthcare sector. For facilities that have initiated electronic health recording, it would be recommended that cloud technologies be implemented to manage and coordinate IT use.
CSCC (2012). Impact of Cloud Computing on HealthCare. Cloud Standards Customer Council.
Cyhoeddus, G.L. & Cymru, C. (2005). Impact of Medical Technological Advances. National Public Health Service for Wales.
Kuhrt, M. (2016). Hospitals in the Cloud: How the Technology is Helping Executives to Boost Quality and Cut Costs. A Fierce Health IT Brief.