Doctor in hallway reviewing electronic health records on digital tablet

For today’s connected hospitals, improving “population health” begins in the cloud

The cloud offers improved efficiency, less stress, and more insights for healthcare providers

27 April 2022

Find out how leveraging cloud technology helps hospitals close the loop of patient wellbeing and improve population health

Doctor teleconferencing senior attending physician remotely

The healthcare industry has been one of the most challenging industries to transform when it comes to digitalisation. Its abundance of legacy systems, coupled with its sheer volume of sensitive patient data, have hampered hospitals’ efforts to digitalise at scale. In 2018, before the pandemic, the healthcare sector accounted for the second smallest share of sector output public cloud spend, according to a 2021 Deloitte report.

However, the winds have shifted significantly in favour of digital, thanks to a number of intervening factors.

The pandemic and its subsequent effects on society have created a host of new challenges for hospitals, from operational disruptions to an increase in cyber security breaches to an overall shift in customer expectations. 

This has coincided with a growing Asia-Pacific-wide awareness of population health, which places the focus on the overall health of a population, as opposed to the individual. The idea is that healthcare should be approached holistically rather than reactively; that stakeholders within and beyond healthcare should be promoting the lifelong, community-wide prevention of diseases, instead of focusing on treating people after the fact.

For hospitals, this requires a shift in perspective. While they should still work on improving the quality of treatments and patient outcomes, these are secondary goals compared to preserving the health of one’s community. Healthcare providers must find ways to close the loop on healthcare, so that fewer people get to the point where they need treatment in the first place. 

For many healthcare providers, the cloud may provide the solution they’re looking for. Here’s why.

The cloud offers efficiency and resilience

Doctor digitally manipulating cyber security

It’s no secret that the cloud improves hospital efficiency. Instead of requiring patients to manually fill up forms every time they make a hospital visit, hospitals can retrieve patient data from the cloud and transfer this data seamlessly across stakeholders. This reduces downtimes and errors, and speeds up healthcare delivery significantly.

For instance, Mitra Keluarga Hospital in Indonesia switched from an on-premise solution to the AWS Cloud after experiencing limitations and frequent downtime with their on-premise data centre. Introduction of a more stable and scalable cloud-based infrastructure vastly improved patient experiences. This also lessened expenditure for the hospital, since it no longer needed costly on-premise infrastructure.

The cloud also powers integrated clinical decision support solutions like Medi-Span Clinica, a leading drug screening solution from Wolters Kluwer Health and has been deployed in several hospitals across Asia-Pacific. Medi-span Clinical supports the clinicians with actionable drug data and insights, enabling better prescribing and dosing decisions based on the latest clinical evidence.

Integrated with T-Systems’ cloud-based EMR platform, Medi-span Clinical provides automated, in-line screening alerts to clinicians and pharmacists, helping prevent medication errors such as drug-drug interactions, drug allergy interactions, duplicate therapies and overprescribing. The solution helps remove the busywork of manually double-checking medication decisions, and delivers on improved patient safety and workflow efficiencies.

Digitalisation and its improved efficiency offer hospitals a number of benefits. Besides reducing costs, it also crisis-proofs hospitals by laying a foundation for future innovations, like creating Internet-of-Things (IoT) systems that could enable remote monitoring and robot nurses.

The time saved can also be channelled into improving patient care. For example, Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara in Malaysia uses Azure public cloud to host their ICT infrastructure. This new cloud-based network provides staff with a real-time dashboard they can use to remotely access medical records, manage patient experience, order supplies, and expedite billing processes. This means that patients can receive their hospital bills within minutes, instead of hours, and be released without the previous long waits. 

With technology doing the heavy lifting in healthcare, medical practitioners can focus on taking care of people, and tending to the bigger picture on population health.

Improved cyber security for patient peace of mind

Senior couple consulting physician with digital tablet for healthcare

The pandemic has made hospitals a prime target for cyber crime, particularly as the rise in caseloads have increased the availability of sensitive patient data. According to Interpol’s 2021 ASEAN Cyber Threat Assessment, healthcare is one of the top five most frequently attacked industries in ASEAN.

Hospitals’ reluctance to change legacy systems has come back to haunt them: with the pandemic raging, hospitals have had little time or motivation to review their infrastructure and cyber security protocols, leading directly to a rise in attacks!

The cloud can address these hospital security issues. By moving elements to the cloud, organisations can adopt the high standards of cloud providers, and layer that in with their own security and compliance strategies.

Cyber security and population health have a closer connection than you think. Ensuring the privacy of patient data is part and parcel of the healthcare experience; better cyber security provides a different level of care to patients who already have enough to deal with in their everyday lives. 

The fear of having their data exposed and sold around the black markets may further their stress; putting the cloud in charge of protecting data can go a long way to assuage that fear.

Big data for better preventative care

Remote healthcare teleconsultation with doctor on prescription medication

To improve population health, the focus on healthcare must shift from reactive to proactive. The cloud makes this possible through big data, which can be leveraged for predictive analytics. 

Big data can be used to identify patient risk factors — wringing insights from vast data lakes to determine patients’ likelihood to contract chronic diseases like diabetes or kidney failure. Big data can provide health practitioners with more nuanced and personalised preventative measures for patients. And wearable devices can also be enlisted to monitor patient health outside of the hospital.

For instance, Singapore’s National Diabetes Dashboard is using its consolidated patient data to identify diabetic patients at risk of kidney failure. The organisation is using artificial intelligence-based predictive models to achieve such, and will make this information available to primary-care practitioners using the National Electronic Health Record system. 

Lastly, data is necessary for gauging a population’s health, because it might also indicate other factors that might be impacting people’s wellbeing — patients’ diets, lack of exercise, or levels of stress, among others. In other words, big data creates plans of action that can be used beyond the healthcare industry.

Healing starts in the cloud

Technology, and more specifically the cloud, allows hospitals to improve the quality of treatment within their four walls. The improved efficiency allows medical practitioners to focus on patient care, and the improved patient experience promotes health-seeking behaviour among patients. 

Improving population health also involves a number of stakeholders in industries beyond healthcare. While hospitals do not have a direct hand in how these other stakeholders can improve population health, they are able to leverage technology to identify action points as a whole.

Find out how we’re helping health ecosystems provide more efficient and holistic healthcare across the Asia-Pacific, by bringing the cloud’s benefits to hospitals and other healthcare providers.

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