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How the Cloud Will Improve Healthcare Interoperability in 2021

healthcare cloud 

By Shannon Flynn

Technology can be both a blessing and a curse. When the health care industry adopted electronic health records, it enabled better patient care and communication, but it also led to a compatibility problem. Healthcare interoperability has been a point of struggle for many hospitals, but thankfully, technology also provides a solution.

Cloud computing has seen unprecedented adoption rates in other industries for a host of reasons. One of the most significant of those driving factors is an improved capacity for interoperability. In light of these benefits, the healthcare industry is starting to migrate toward the cloud.

Healthcare interoperability has become such a problem that Congress passed a law requiring hospitals to meet compatibility standards. The deadline for compliance with this law, the 21st Century Cures Act, is in April of this year, so there's not much time left to change. As a result, cloud computing could be a saving grace for hospitals in 2021.

New APIs Improve Efficiency and Security

Cloud computing's greatest strength in ensuring interoperability is application programming interfaces. APIs are far from a new concept, but modern cloud APIs provide several critical advantages for EHR systems. Most notably, unlike traditional interfaces, many cloud APIs today adhere to open standards and are often platform-agnostic.

Today's cloud APIs are more akin to products than traditional code. EHR system developers can find an API that fits their platform and follows the standards they need. As a result, integrating these software intermediaries is a relatively straightforward and quick process. Hospitals can improve their interoperability with minimal disruption and time.

Tech companies have worked with the Department of Health and Human Services to develop open API standards for health care organizations. These ensure hospitals don't have to compromise patient data safety for interoperability. Having unified guidelines also helps produce more interoperable software despite differences in companies and platforms.

Scalable Data Warehousing

With so many different stakeholders with varying needs, it can be challenging to make decisions and communicate across hospital departments. As health administration expert Jeremy Dennis highlights, a single source of truth from a data warehouse provides a fast and easy fix. The cloud is the ideal place for these data warehouses.

On-premise data warehousing is typically slow and challenging to scale. Expanding storage space with on-premise servers is expensive and slows things down further. In an industry where efficiency can translate to saved lives, speed is a necessity. Clouds provide that.

With a cloud-based data warehouse, hospitals can upgrade their storage capacity in mere seconds. Since hospitals produce 50 petabytes of data every year, that level of scalability is essential. The savings associated with cloud data warehouses can help hospitals further by keeping health care costs down while improving care simultaneously.

Cloud data warehouses are also typically more reliable. Cloud vendors will update their software and servers automatically, so hospitals always have the latest features and security. Opting for the cloud further improves reliability by ensuring any on-premise accidents don't compromise the EHR system.

Telemedicine

Finally, one of the most significant changes coming to healthcare in 2021 is the rise of telemedicine. Last year, 80% of American physicians had a virtual health care visit, compared to only 22% in 2019. As telehealth continues to expand, interoperability through the cloud will become more crucial.

Cloud storage enables remote accessibility, which, in turn, makes virtual health care possible. With telemedicine, patients don't need to drive to a hospital or sit in a waiting room to see a doctor. That advantage could dramatically improve medical accessibility, saving lives and driving down costs.

An on-premise EHR system could enable interoperability within a hospital, but barriers would remain with remote users. Consequently, even the most interoperable on-premise solutions aren't as compatible as possible. Only cloud storage provides the accessibility needed for the growing telemedicine field.

As Interoperability Improves, So Does Health Care Itself

Health care interoperability isn't merely a matter of business efficiency. Yes, improving compatibility across applications will help hospitals reduce costs and become more profitable. However, the most significant advantage is that interoperability improvements in health care translate into better patient outcomes.

With a more interoperable system, health care workers can communicate faster and see a more comprehensive picture of patients' conditions. As a result, they'll be able to provide faster, better care to those who need it. As these issues become more prominent in 2021, cloud computing will emerge as the ideal solution.

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About the Author

Shannon Flynn 

Shannon Flynn is a tech writer who covers topics like cloud computing, business technology, and data. You can find her work on Hackernoon, Cybint Solutions, Irish Tech News, and ReHack.com. Visit ReHack for other trending tech topics covered by Shannon. 
Published Wednesday, January 20, 2021 7:41 AM by David Marshall
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