Boosting Healthcare Delivery With Cloud Technology: Comments On Microsoft’s Strategy To Boost Healthcare Delivery With Cloud Technology

"Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the Internet ("the cloud") to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping you lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change."

“US healthcare spending is projected to reach $6.2 trillion by 2028.”

Recently, a good friend of mine shared an interesting document with me. 

It’s primarily about Microsoft’s soft & smooth move into the healthcare ecosystem. 

If you look critically at what some tech giants are doing today, you will discover that many have started going into the healthcare ecosystem [quietly]…

Apple.

Google.

Microsoft.

They all want a piece of the “Digital Health Money,” and they are erecting formidable structures that will put plenty of power in their hands tomorrow. 

Microsoft revealed how they want to use their robust cloud services to improve healthcare delivery in that document [a whitepaper/small e-book; you can download it here]. 

So I have studied it [49 pages], so you don’t have to bother going through it. 

I will discuss my “key findings” in this article and include some comments

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First, we will look at the basic definition of “Cloud Technology.” 

What Is Cloud Technology? 

“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the Internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping you lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.

Source: azure.microsoft

Before cloud technology came into the world of computing, the only option was to have your infrastructure [especially hardware] in a “solid state.” That means you had to have your servers, storage, and databases on the ground. 

Only big companies could afford to have all that. 

Small companies couldn’t go close to that kind of technology. 

Cloud computing eliminates the need for you to have those advanced technologies physically.

So, instead of building your own from the ground up, cloud computing makes it possible for you to access those services and infrastructures [hardware, software, and expertise] over the internet for a reasonable amount of money, as compared to if you had to purchase everything yourself — deployment and maintenance.

Here are the top benefits of cloud computing, according to Microsoft Azure: 

Cost Efficiency

Global scale

Better Performance 

Strong Security

Great Speed

Better Productivity 

Reliability

Read more here: What Is Cloud Computing ? | A Beginner’s Guide | Microsoft.

Cloud computing has made it easy for entrepreneurs without enough resources to bring their ideas to life. 

Staying Ahead of Emerging Issues in Healthcare 

“The healthcare delivery tools of yesterday have become inadequate to address new challenges. Patients and providers demand quicker and easier access to medical datamore personalized care, and the highest level of data security across all devices to prevent cyberattacks and data theft.”

The pandemic was a great revealer. It exposed the big cracks in our cherished healthcare systems’ supposedly ‘mighty’ walls. 

We saw our inadequacies, faults, and weaknesses

We may have learned our lessons and started to put things in place, preparing for the future because no one knows what awaits humanity in the nearest future. 

Data Is Key

“Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare provides healthcare organizations with trusted, integrated capabilities for managing health data at scale, and it provides easy-to-deploy tools that deliver automation and efficiency to high-value workflows specifically designed for health data.”

Organizations like Microsoft that have long been in the digital technologies innovation ecosystem are best suited to create innovative solutions in the healthcare ecosystem. 

They have the experience, resources, and structure needed to tackle this age’s most pressing healthcare issues — mainly challenges related to how Healthcare can conveniently and safely transition into the digital ecosystem. 

And one essential tool that will help is DATA. 

Data produced by the healthcare ecosystem needs to be better utilized; this is where Microsoft comes in.  

Four Ways Microsoft Solutions Enhance Delivery.

Enhance patient engagement: With suitable data management systems and protocols, it’s easier for healthcare organizations to develop structures that will enhance and improve patient engagement and experience on all patient interaction interfaces, from mobile apps to web pages and physical contact points. 

Empower health team collaboration: Communication within healthcare teams is vital. Healthcare professionals can effectively communicate and collaborate with the proper process and structure, improving patient outcomes. 

Improve clinical and operational insights: Lowering the cost of care and eliminating workflow redundancy all depend on the kind of approach healthcare organizations take in the aspect of managing data. 

Protect health information: Healthcare data is delicate. Digital health solutions must implement robust systems that can resist the many data threats in cyberspace. 

Looking at how Microsoft’s solutions want to enhance healthcare delivery, we will discover that data is in the middle of everything. It depends on how we can use data to create tailored fit solutions. 

“Toward this goal, Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare encourages better coordination among care teams, clinicians, administrators, and patients while increasing process efficiencies.”

The Hurdle of Interoperability 

“Interoperability in healthcare refers to timely and secure access, integration and use of electronic health data so that it can be used to optimize health outcomes for individuals and populations.”

IBM

What is interoperability? 

It means the ability of computers or software to exchange information amongst themselves efficiently. 

The absence of solid interoperable systems has been a big challenge in the healthcare ecosystem for a long time. 

And in this digital age, we can no longer shy away from this challenge. We must evolve to accommodate this cultural shift. 

Healthcare systems must begin to look for ways to enhance interoperability within their system, making it easy for data to flow seamlessly within and without

“With the rise of new models such as virtual health, remote patient monitoring, and expanding omnichannel access, patients are more dependent on personalized, insightful, and secure access to their medical data.”

Healthcare data is fragile, and we must be cautious while handling it. And at the same time, healthcare data needs to move from one place to another to enhance patient care delivery. 

It will not be valuable to us if it sits in one place. So, we need to develop solid channels for healthcare data to securely travel so that it can be used anywhere, anytime by healthcare professionals who need it. 

“To optimize healthcare delivery, organizations need to improve collaboration and bring together INFORMATION, PEOPLE, and PROCESSES across the health ecosystem. This connection is key to solving many of today’s most pressing healthcare challenges. Health organizations need to bridge the information gap and facilitate secure knowledge sharing across health teams and between all parties, including care providers, payors, facilities, patients, and their families. That’s where Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare shines.”

Streamlining Care Delivery With Strategic Solutions

“67% of patients are willing to share their medical records with researchers from their own medical provider.”

The Age of Personalised Care

The one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare will no longer work in this digital age.

Every patient has unique and specific needs. And the only way we can understand the patient’s needs is simply through their healthcare data. 

Appropriate use of patient data makes it easy for healthcare systems to develop care interventions for patients that fit their preferences, lifestyle, and health challenges. 

“Clinicians need to cut through the clutter of fragmented systems so they can spend more quality time with patients. The right solution can save time, save money, and improve patient outcomes. To coordinate care, organizations need solutions that can help them securely hand off patient information, reduce readmissions, decrease clinician burnout, and enhance financial sustainability.”

Discovering New Healthcare Solutions

“New innovations in care coordination could result in $240 billion in annual healthcare savings.”

Like never before, there has been a mighty surge in the development of digital healthcare solutions. 

Even in developing countries [especially in Africa] that do not have enough resources, entrepreneurs and innovators have developed powerful innovations that solve many healthcare problems. 

This sudden acceleration may be partly due to the pandemic and [partially] because the time had actually come for the healthcare ecosystem to break through into the world of digital technologies; the process was slow, and the pandemic just hastened things up; it served as a form of catalyst. 

Information, People & Processes

Microsoft’s cloud technology for Healthcare focuses on these three vital elements — information, people & processes.  

Microsoft has perfected the art and science of handling information. They do it so well, and now they are transferring it into the healthcare industry, which needs it so badly. 

How healthcare organizations handle information will reflect in every aspect of the system, from patient outcomes to employee satisfaction to overall company performance

Microsoft’s information solutions give healthcare organizations the tools needed to efficiently utilize the information they generate. 

Their solutions also make it easy to manage people. 

People are the centre of everything that goes on in any organization. Without them, there is no organization; there’s no community.

Emerging technologies must consider this when designing their solutions, and Microsoft has done an excellent job in this aspect. 

They have been able to develop healthcare information and communication solutions that put people into consideration. 

It’s a people-first design philosophy. 

And then, we have processes — smooth and efficient processes that eliminate unwanted redundancies. 

All these elements have been carefully integrated into Microsoft’s Cloud Technology for Healthcare. 

“If recent events have taught us anything, it’s that flexibility overcomes fragility. Data-linked, tech-facing healthcare systems must deploy a resilient core toolkit of secure, cloud-based capabilities to face any challenges in uncertain times.”

The Advantages of Using Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare 

 It allows more flexibility in self-scheduling virtual and in-person appointments. 

• It works through patients’ existing patient portals. 

• It integrates virtual health assistants like the Azure Health Bot service for triaging and scheduling. 

• It creates a seamless method for receiving follow-up and wellness guidance messaging from a patient’s care team. 

Deploying Cloud Solutions

“Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare features allow care managers to develop and follow through on care plan activities and goals, set timeline views of patient care plans, and improve workflow efficiency.”

Microsoft is positioning itself to be a reliable partner in the future of digital health technologies. They are perfecting the art and science of handling healthcare information and processes. 

And when you look closely at what Microsoft is building, you will discover that they have given enough room to healthcare professionals to pour in their input. 

It’s not just the “IT Guys” and “Dev Boys” doing the work now. It’s a close and tight collaboration between all parties involved. 

This approach is what companies or organizations already thinking of building digital technologies for the healthcare ecosystem must consider. 

When building technologies for any group of professionals, ensure the professionals who will be users are involved in the design from the beginning to the end. 

Especially in digital health technologies, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, med lab scientists, and all other healthcare professionals must be involved in the design stages, include them, and Integrate them into the design process. 

They are the ones who know what they want. Design and build from their perspective. 

“Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare delivers better experiences, insights, and care by bringing together trusted and integrated capabilities for providers that enhance patient engagement, empower health team collaboration, and improve clinical and operational data insights.”

Secured, Safe & Smooth

“As innovation evolves and transforms healthcare organizations, so does Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare, with solutions that focus on these primary healthcare principles: enhancing patient engagement, empowering health team collaboration, improving clinical and operational insights, and protecting health information.”

The “protect health information”  aspect of these principles is inarguably the most important; this has been a primary reason why digitalizing healthcare has been a problem for many years. 

How do we protect data so fragile and sensitive? 

How do we secure and preserve data that should never find its way into the wrong hands or be lost for whatsoever reason(s)? 

Microsoft’s Cloud Technology solves this problem. 

They have given much attention to developing safe and secure security technology that ensures that all data stored in their cloud systems are safe. 

Finally, what about privacy issues? 

Healthcare data is not regular data. It shouldn’t be handled the way your browsing history or purchase behaviour is. 

Some strict policies and laws guide how healthcare data is handled online. And Microsoft’s Cloud Technology for Healthcare adheres to all the data privacy policies. 

“A secure messaging and communication solution is a mandatory investment for hospitals and health systems today, bringing together convenience and security while enabling communication in the hospital in ways never before possible. Given the rapidly changing ways people communicate, leveraging technology and Healthcare’s continued data expansion and digital/IoT centricity, Frost & Sullivan expects this to continue to grow in terms of importance. Secure messaging solutions directly contribute to improved patient safety and clinical care by enhancing and increasing communication amongst medical providers.”

Frost & Sullivan

Thank you for taking the time to read our commentary. 

From next year, we will publish commentaries on digital health technologies every month.

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