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Cloud-Computing Your Way to Wellness
Many healthcare organizations are trapped in paper-based medical record-keeping and fragmented IT systems that are costly to maintain and require extensive training to use. In 2010, the federal government announced requirements for the medical industry to get up to speed and modernize its practices by adopting electronic medical recordkeeping by 2015.
The question now is: What information-sharing platforms can healthcare systems utilize that will not only improve efficiency and patient-care effectiveness but do so at a low cost?
Cloud technology -- in which information is stored on external servers and accessed via the Internet -- is being touted as the future of healthcare information systems, one that could enable hospitals, institutions and insurance companies to share information with speed and ease. This new marketplace is expected to grow rapidly in the next three to five years, as healthcare organizations strive to adapt to new regulations and increase savings.
European hospitals that already adopted cloud technologies report significant benefits. Italy's Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital manages one million patients each year. In 2010, the hospital began using Microsoft's Online Services' cloud technology for email and reported a 60 percent savings in IT costs.
CareCloud is a Miami-based company that is positioning itself in this new marketplace. The three-year-old company aims to "revolutionize the healthcare experience" by allowing doctors, patients, payers, labs and pharmacies to communicate in real time. CareCloud says its digital community can even allow institutions to share and aggregate performance analytics, thereby providing better care for patients in the long run.
Another pioneering company in healthcare cloud technology is athenahealth. Recently ranked fourth in Forbes top 25 fastest growing tech companies, athenahealth says it cloud technologies offer vast gains in efficiency over current IT systems. For example, using athenahealth's billing and practice management services can lead to 91 percent of claims being paid the first time.
Before cloud technology can be adopted on a large scale, concerns over data security and meeting HIPAA privacy rules need to be allayed. But proponents of cloud technology say that these can be addressed and shouldn't hinder an embrace of a technology that could benefit both patients and institutions.
As Steve Aylward, general manager of Microsoft's Health and Life Sciences Group, wrote recently: "The possibilities of the cloud are endless for health organizations."