Healthcare & Cloud Computing: The Tipping Point

March 14, 2017
Fred Rahmanian, Chief Technology Officer


Global adoption of cloud services in healthcare is expected to grow from $3.73 billion in 2015 to nearly $9.5 billion by 2020. That’s because cloud computing helps companies like Geneia advance the interoperability, collaboration and efficiency our clients need to achieve true population health and to do so at a pace that’s comfortable for the client.

 

As all of us who work in healthcare know well, we are in the midst of a major transformation from fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement. Since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, health plans, hospitals and physicians have created many value-based and risk-based contracts with the shared goals of improving healthcare quality and lowering cost. Estimates suggest there are approximately 900 accountable care organizations (ACOs) serving 31 million Americans. More than half of the ACOs include a hospital, and nearly all health plans have some type of value-based arrangements in place.

 

As with any systemic change, there are value-based care early adopters, ‘toe-dippers’ and ‘fence-sitters,’ and Geneia’s use of cloud computing allows us to meet clients precisely where they are.

 

Cloud Computing Saves Money and Implementation Time

 

As I tell my students in Columbia University’s Health Information Technology certificate program, it’s worth looking back at the not-so-distant past to understand how much of a game changer cloud computing is. As few as 10 years ago, a new, small ACO looking at an advanced analytics solution like Geneia’s Theon® platform would not only need to make a large infrastructure investment in the form of one or more on-site servers, but also need to project growth for the next three to five years, and purchase servers to accommodate expected future needs.

 

Today, this new ACO can take advantage of some of the key components of cloud computing – on-demand self-service and rapid elasticity – and only use the computing power it needs exactly when needed. Cloud computing saves this ACO money at the outset since there is no capital investment in hardware and throughout its life. It also dramatically shortens the time needed to implement the Theon® platform, reducing the implementation schedule by as much as 70 percent.

 

Cloud Computing Enables Virtual Care

 

Just as importantly, this new ACO can consume as much data as available to help with managing the health of its attributed population. Rather than being limited by on-site server capacity, this ACO can leverage virtual care technologies such as remote patient monitoring and telemedicine and use this additional information to intervene earlier to mitigate disease progression of the at-risk and chronically-ill, and to reduce the costs of preventable emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

 

Cloud Computing Enables Predictive Analytics

 

As I wrote in a blog last month, the surge in data and data sources, coupled with machine learning, offers the very real possibility of addressing healthcare’s most challenging problems. As I frequently tell my students, “What is noise today is signal tomorrow. More data is better.” The use of cloud computing allows this new ACO and every other value-based relationship to ingest all the available data – and then figure out how to best use it later. This is especially true with predictive analytics.

 

For example, as many as 100 or more factors contribute to a patient’s risk of hospital readmission, but to predict who is most at risk and take preventive action, we need to identify the variables that have the most weight and are most easily addressed. Through predictive analytics, we have learned that patients who do not speak the same language as their healthcare provider and those who live more than 10 miles from a pharmacy have a much greater risk of readmission.

 

The Tipping Point

 

The HIMSS Analytics 2016 Cloud Survey suggests healthcare has reached the tipping point for embracing the cloud. The survey of 105 IT leaders in healthcare provider organizations found most plan to expand their use of the cloud, moving from back office functions like email to health information exchange, patient engagement and empowerment tools, and big data analysis. These leaders are moving to the cloud for its ability to improve scalability, speed of deployment and disaster recovery, save money, and more.

 

At Geneia, we couldn’t agree more. The cloud offers unparalleled advantages to the healthcare industry as we transform to a value-based reimbursement model that rewards outcome improvement and return on investment.