By Nidhi Jain,
Cloud adoption has taken a quantum leap in the last decade, and companies across industries are moving their operations from legacy IT systems to the cloud. From manufacturing and retail to e-commerce and entertainment, every sector has benefited immensely from the agility and scalability offered by the cloud. When it comes to a mission-critical sector such as healthcare, cloud-based solutions can be a true game-changer by enabling providers to deliver quality, accessible and coordinated care to patients.
However, cloud adoption in healthcare has been rather slow despite increased awareness of cloud computing. Even today, a large percentage of hospitals in India continue to rely on a traditional legacy system, with different departments having their own IT systems and databases. This creates an information silo which subsequently leads to communication gaps between various stakeholders (doctors, administrators, lab technicians, etc.) in the hospital and a disjointed experience for both payers and providers.
Another major challenge hospitals face is the lack of expertise and staff to implement and manage their IT infrastructure, which often results in the loss of critical patient data. Such limitations necessitate the need for a SaaS-based solution that can bring all the healthcare modules together on a single platform. With an integrated, all-in-one cloud ecosystem in place, hospitals do not need different IT solutions for different needs such as HIMs, EMR/EHR, LIMS, PACS, Pharmacy, e-Claim, etc. and pay for services on an ad-hoc basis.
SaaS providers not only facilitate seamless collaboration among important stakeholders but also allow for faster integration and scalability, seamless upgrades and greater ease of use at a fraction of the cost of conventional IT infrastructures. This explains the rising adoption of SaaS models in the healthcare sector globally, growing rapidly at a rate of 20% every year. Overall, the cloud computing market in healthcare is estimated to reach a whopping $51.9 billion by 2024. The COVID-19 crisis has further accelerated the adoption of SaaS-based models in healthcare by establishing the value of cloud technology.
What’s driving the shift to SaaS-based solutions in healthcare?
SaaS-based cloud solutions providers offer manifold advantages over traditional on-premise systems– from reduced costs, improved data security and interoperability to greater access to information and data sharing. As healthcare organizations become increasingly aware of this, let us see how moving to a cloud infrastructure can benefit hospitals.
Improved data privacy and security
Healthcare data is under duress, with 90% of healthcare organizations experiencing at least one data breach since 2016. Rising incidents of data breaches in healthcare calls for the implementation of cloud-based services. Unfortunately, data security norms are not followed in many Indian hospitals as healthcare professionals lack the know-how of cybersecurity and even forget to implement and maintain network firewalls. Since a cloud-based IT infrastructure offers greater data integrity and confidentiality in comparison to local servers, hospitals can become less vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks by moving to the cloud. Moreover, SaaS providers ensure that their cloud solutions are monitored effectively by their highly-trained professionals, thereby guaranteeing data security and privacy.
As transactions increase, the performance of legacy IT systems deteriorates over time. One way to tackle this issue is to add more servers, but it can be both time-consuming and exorbitant. However, native cloud SaaS architect is elastic in nature and can grow and shrink based upon the needs of an hour. To achieve this, both software applications and deployments have to be on microservices based architecture, i.e. cloud. When hospitals are one
Greater collaboration for improved patient care
The deployment of cloud storage for electronic medical records (EMR) has enabled seamless collaboration among multiple stakeholders in the healthcare system. With cloud-based medical records, it has become significantly easier for medical professionals to view and share patient data (including his past medical records) in a more synergistic manner. Similarly, cloud technologies allow healthcare providers to share insights with each other, view the interactions between the patient and his previous doctors, and provide customized care that is best suited to that particular patient.
Reduced IT costs
Since there’s no requirement for upfront capital investment and healthcare providers only need to pay for the services they use, cloud-based solutions offer greater affordability over a traditional on-site IT infrastructure. In most cases, SaaS providers take care of the upkeep and maintenance costs of cloud servers, which allows healthcare organizations to cut down on unnecessary expenditures that arise from the management and maintenance of a legacy system. Additionally, SaaS vendors can create an unlimited ecosystem by connecting other SaaS software vendors such as healthcare AI, IoT devices, as well as value-added system providers, which is not possible in a legacy system.
One of the biggest advantages offered by the cloud is often underestimated – its ability to drive business innovation. Cloud technology can play a pivotal role in accelerating innovation. It empowers healthcare providers to expand product/service features while offering improved ease-of-use, rapidly develop and deploy new products/services and create a unique, hyper-personalized healthcare experience for patients. By migrating to the cloud model, hospitals can cut back expenses on non-differentiating areas of IT and rather shift their focus to product or service innovation that lead to better healthcare delivery.
Overcoming barriers to cloud adoption with SaaS providers
Despite its recent growth, SaaS adoption is still picking pace due to challenges such as shrinking healthcare budgets, increased concerns around data security, regulatory hurdles, and the lack of awareness around cloud computing, among others. Since healthcare organizations are required to meet stringent privacy, security and compliance requirements, providers remain apprehensive about how to map and implement these requirements on the cloud.
However, new-age healthtech SaaS companies are bringing a change to this scenario by facilitating a seamless, cost-effective and quick transition to the cloud. With their subscription-based pricing models, they are democratizing access to cloud technologies and empowering hospitals to harness the power of cloud computing without having to make a large upfront investment. The convenience, agility and cost-optimization offered by SaaS providers are driving the next wave of cloud adoption growth in India’s healthcare, ultimately contributing to creating a more connected health infrastructure.
Cloud technology can be the key enabler for healthcare, especially the Indian healthcare system, which is reeling under tremendous pressure and faces obstacles such as inadequate infrastructure, rural-urban disparity and a siloed-working structure. Powered by SaaS companies, increased and faster adoption of the cloud will address these pain points and lay the foundation for quality healthcare that is accessible to everyone.
(The author is Founder & CEO, KareXpert. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)