Now that the initial frenzy of the cloud revolution is settling, solid applications are providing a glimpse of the potential of cloud computing to change daily life for the better. In my industry, healthcare, the cloud is not simply transforming existing processes, but actually enabling new decision-making models that simply weren’t possible before.
Why Electronic Medical Records Fell Short
The healthcare industry earlier tried for transformation with electronic medical records (EMRs). The original notion was that individual physician practices could justify the investment in servers, software, and maintenance based on efficiency gains. Then we’d bubble up the health records data from multiple organizations and it would be a Shangri La moment for chronic disease models, coordinated care, care duplication, and more.
But reality fell short of the mark. Many physicians’ offices are really small business at heart. They were hard pressed to afford EMR infrastructure and all that went with it. Efficiency gains are minuscule at best if you simply print out patient charts each morning, place them on that same old clipboard, mark them up with a ballpoint pen, and then have the office manager enter the new information into the EMR system to print out next time.
Without a critical mass of EMR infrastructure, developers lacked the incentive to create standards and unifying protocols. And the lack of protocols prevented meaningful sharing of data.
Even if some of your healthcare providers do use EMRs, it’s rare that all of your providers can see yours. Connecting EMRs among more than a handful of physician practices is not technically feasible, nor is it appropriate.
Enter the Cloud and Big Data
Today, the cloud and new analysis tools are succeeding where the original EMR vision failed.
The new approach is for constituents—providers, payers, and even healthcare services organizations—to join federations, where each member contributes certain types of patient data. Rather than attempting to synchronize members’ EMRs with each other, a service provider stores this targeted data using cloud design principles. Any healthcare professional or payer who is part of the federation can access protected health information about their patient under the appropriate circumstances.
Big Data in Action: Beyond Gut Instincts
Big data, the child of the cloud revolution, does even more to advance medical science. Ever-growing data sets and more powerful analysis tools provide predictive data about the efficacy of different treatments for patients with certain characteristics.
Today we’re on the threshold of a true breakthrough in evidence-based clinical support by bringing the results of big-data analysis directly to the examining room. Imagine it: Deciding between two or three courses of treatment, your doctor has access to claims history, medical images, and past and current lab results, all wrapped in evidence-based guidelines. It comes together for one patient and one physician in one medically significant moment. As technologists, we call this the “mash-up” model.
I’ll blog more about that in part 2, available on March 29.
To learn more:
Find out more about CareCore National’s partnership with Cisco, video testimonial
Visit the Cisco Cloud Solutions web page