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Virtustream 2021 Predictions: Healthcare's Embrace of Cloud Will Improve Patient Outcomes in 2021

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

Healthcare's Embrace of Cloud Will Improve Patient Outcomes in 2021

By Dr. Tim Calahan, CTO of Virtustream Healthcare Cloud

Without a doubt, cloud computing has been a critical enabler for digital transformation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In healthcare, cloud provided the foundational elements to provide care access to a record number of patients through the explosive adoption of telehealth and the expansion of virtual ICUs to improve continuous care. These virtual services, which many believe contributed to the improved management of the COVID-19 virus, quickly progressed from novel to essential. According to McKinsey, medical staff were seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients via telehealth than they did before. 

When predicting how this trend will evolve in 2021, it's imperative that healthcare organizations build on this year's digital transformation projects and continue to leverage the cloud to drive further enhancements to continuously improve the patient experience. This will be achieved by integrating disparate systems designed for specific uses in healthcare, in addition to driving improvements to data integration, interoperability, and the effective analysis of that pool of data. Organizations prioritizing cloud as we move into 2021 will benefit from a significant increase in open communication and information transparency among end-users in three key groups: patients, medical staff and administrators.

Cloud already supports secure interconnected devices that underpin efficient health diagnostics. These devices and the patients' electronic health record provide the backbone to enhance a patient's treatment plan and overall experience. As healthcare systems and payers continue to accelerate cloud adoption for healthcare data, providers and payers alike will have greater access to patient data that can enhance overall care. This digital transformation in healthcare was already underway, however the pandemic accelerated the rate of adoption and acceptance of digital solutions. These digital transformation initiatives affect healthcare providers and payers in different ways and the methods to deliver these digital solutions vary. Additionally, the security safeguards that surround patient data and the inevitable data exchange continues to grow in importance, especially as healthcare applications are delivered using broad and diverse methods.

As we head deeper into 2021, and healthcare organizations are determining how best to drive cloud to the point of care, it's critical to understand in what way different user groups are impacted by cloud adoption and digital transformation. Primarily, how these changes affect job performance and the ability to deliver better patient care.

Connecting end user groups

The pandemic underscored the requirement for application mobility. Overnight, organizations were faced with delivering enterprise applications in different and unique ways, while patients who needed care were unable to visit their traditional care facility. These unique requirements created the digital transformation explosion that will continue to effect healthcare organization workers and patients alike in 2021 and for decades to come. Below are a few examples of the different end user groups and how their interaction with their respective healthcare systems have fundamentally changed:

  • Patients: schedule appointments, attend appointment via telehealth, access test results, retrieve health care records and pay bills.
  • Medical providers: obtain real-time data and insights to inform diagnostic and personalized patient care, through innovations like virtual ICUs, remotely access mission-critical application like EHRs to facilitate remote use of healthcare applications and work from home initiatives
  • Administrators: streamline administrative processes such as coding and billing

Each of these examples highlight how digital healthcare transformation has impacted patient care, access to care, and the processing of care. Virtual options allow physician groups and health systems to optimize provider time, such as modifying physician schedules to utilize open time for virtual visits. Additionally, tele-ICU or vICU will continue to grow more prominent in 2021, enabling provider end users to treat larger patient populations by leveraging technology and technology-enabled facilities to enhance outcomes. Administrators are also able to take advantage of these digital transformation efforts, by facilitating near real-time communication between providers and payers to streamline areas such as prior authorization. In the past, and in some cases even in today's environment, authorization from an insurance carrier for doctor's visits or medication can range from days to weeks; even months. As more providers and payers get connected via the cloud in 2021 and beyond, insurer approval can be granted almost immediately so patient follow-up can be scheduled or medicine can be quickly dispensed. As a result, patients get the care they need in a timely manner and have a more seamless experience with the end-to-end healthcare system.

Providing care without compromising security and privacy

Entire healthcare ecosystems must be streamlined to ensure patients receive care efficiently and the data related to their health has an uncompromised "chain of custody." Centralizing application access and control by leveraging end-user computing solutions allows payers and providers to provide access to the healthcare environment to users that are beyond the organizations four walls in a secure and safe way.

Importantly, patient records contain protected health information (PHI) so only the highest security standards are acceptable for healthcare application delivery and data management. As organizations develop their cloud strategy for 2021 and the future, a mandatory consideration point will be selecting a cloud-based architecture that complies with the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), as well as similar frameworks for other countries or regions.

By ensuring this standard of excellence when deploying cloud-based healthcare applications and EHRs, patient data is not only always available to all end user groups but also protected at the highest level. Infrastructure availability, business continuity and disaster recovery are essential considerations when developing your 2021 end user computing strategy that leverages cloud. If one part of the ecosystem is down, it can negatively impact communications across the entire system of care and lead to costly inefficiencies and a poor patient experience.

Making more connections with cloud

We've made progress, but there is still so much more to do in 2021. Healthcare organizations that embrace digital transformation and implement new services will be better positioned in the post-pandemic world. Embracing cloud platforms to enable those new services will allow healthcare organizations the agility they need to keep pace with the needs of their patients and the care ecosystem.

Reliance on cloud in healthcare will only continue after 2020. The next step in getting added benefits from a cloud-based infrastructure is integrating applications. While the patient, provider and administrator may not know it's cloud computing improving the way healthcare is delivered, they will see their needs being met faster and more efficiently. And when technology can enable better experiences, the entire health ecosystem becomes stronger. 

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About the Author

Tim Calahan 

Dr. Calahan is the CTO for the Virtustream Healthcare Cloud. Throughout his career, Dr. Calahan has demonstrated a passion for building new products, solutions, and teams to support new business initiatives on a global scale. Essentially, Dr. Calahan is focused on building things.

Dr. Calahan has spent the majority of his career in consulting, product development, and sales; providing innovative products and solutions in a variety of industries with a focus on healthcare and financial services.

Published Wednesday, January 27, 2021 7:40 AM by David Marshall
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