The healthcare industry is becoming increasingly comfortable with cloud-delivered digital health services. As HIMSS has reported, popular candidates for cloud-based healthcare solutions include consumer engagement systems, data storage and back-office applications like e-mail.
And they should be. These digital health solutions are more cost-effectively delivered via the cloud than on-premises, as the latter requires a substantial investment in infrastructure, upgrades and maintenance, not to mention skilled human resources. These same arguments hold true for cloud-based mission-critical healthcare systems, including clinical records, member enrollment, etc.
Yet the industry is still not entirely comfortable with seating these systems in the cloud, whether for privacy and security reasons or a wary perception that cloud is not ready to host key clinical and business digital health systems.
Updating the Cloud Mentality
That thinking needs to catch up with what cloud offers today. Organizations can readily obtain secure and compliant digital health services such as virtual infrastructure and critical healthcare systems via the cloud. Consider these points:
- Privacy and security. Major cloud infrastructure vendors are fully HIPAA compliant. Those certified by the Health Information Trust Alliance provide even more peace of mind. Public clouds have the security and privacy controls necessary to securely store and transmit personal health information and any other sensitive data. Clouds built and maintained by large service providers offer enormous economies of scale, from on-demand scalability to pay-as-you-go pricing.
- A rich ecosystem of cloud offerings. Large vendors now offer cloud-based solutions, from records systems to health plan administration. They are also taking advantage of the cloud’s support for DevOps, Agile and other high-speed, high-quality application development methodologies. This enables these providers to experiment with new features, functions and integration with other vendors to bring the best capabilities to market quickly. Being part of a cloud ecosystem will enable healthcare organizations to swiftly take advantage of these new offerings – they’ll just be another service to switch on.
- Fail or scale, fast. The cloud makes it possible for health organizations to rapidly prototype and test new business ideas, from apps to analytics, while minimizing cost and risk. The new initiatives can be segregated on the cloud and run through their paces; if they don’t prove out, the organization is not left with a massive infrastructure investment. And if the proof of concept is a winner, the capacity needed to roll it out to business users, members, patients, clinicians, etc. is already available and waiting in the cloud.
- AI and other digital technologies. Analytics, automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are all being baked into cloud offerings. These are highly specialized capabilities that are difficult to source internally. What’s more, algorithms and machines get smarter when exposed to more data sets. While individual data sets will still be segregated in the cloud, a cloud-based AI agent will have the advantage of learning from hundreds of thousands of data sets, which is critical for improving AI algorithms. That should lead to faster pattern recognition that could help organizations design more effective care strategies or develop products and services aligned with specialized conditions or populations.
Foundation for the Future
Ultimately, the cloud provides the infrastructure, applications and business flexibility that healthcare organizations require to retool their business and operating models. This is critical in today’s extremely cost-conscious and efficiency-obsessed market in which healthcare organizations are striving to design evidence-based care pathways, empower patients and engage with consumers vs. maintaining systems and managing infrastructure. Cloud frees these businesses to focus on building critical abilities, reducing costs and responding effectively to future market challenges and opportunities.
All of these factors helped drive our introduction of the TriZetto Healthcare Cloud Solution on Microsoft’s Azure cloud services platform. Our experience in developing solutions on Azure for clients across multiple industries has demonstrated how effective cloud can be, even in the most complex environments and for mission-critical systems. Making core health plan systems such as our TriZetto QNXT and Facets available from the cloud was a natural extension of our work with both Microsoft Azure and the healthcare industry. The cloud solution will help reduce payers’ administrative and IT operating costs so they can direct their resources to new digital solutions that support changing industry reimbursement models and improve member experiences.
We will also take our own medicine. That is, just as we recommend cloud adoption to our clients, we will also take advantage of the flexibility of Azure and many complementary cloud-based tools to develop a steady stream of features and services for the TriZetto Healthcare Cloud Solution.
Our goal is to always be poised to anticipate, shift and adapt as the industry evolves – an objective that the cloud can help both us and industry stakeholders achieve.