Three Reasons the Cloud is Critical for Ensuring Patient-Centered Care

By Morris Panner, President, Intelerad
Twitter: @Intelerad
Twitter: @mpanner

As the healthcare sector embraces value-based care, the patient – not the procedure – is the central focus for providers. But the move to patient-centered care requires several significant deviations from the status quo.

For example, more personalized treatment is required through information sharing and collaborative decision making among providers, patients and their families. There is also a greater need to focus on overall physical, mental and emotional well-being for patients, as well as more opportunities for self-service, including access to their records, making payments and locating additional information.

But what exactly will it take to turn these goals into reality? For starters, providers must rethink their daily workflows to improve and expand the ways they interact with patients, other healthcare providers and payers. Technology must also be applied to support every appropriate stakeholder in order for patient-centered care to be reality.

The Digital Transformation Healthcare Movement

For many years, healthcare organizations relied on paper-based files and film images, hesitant to move to onsite software systems and electronic health records (EHR) solutions. Organizations were slow to adopt newer technologies for managing images and patient records over concerns about security, legal compliance, and the risk of downtime. While other industries managing critical data, such as banking, manufacturing and logistics, embraced digital transformations early – and reaped the benefits of improved customer experience and business performance – healthcare organizations have typically moved more cautiously when adopting EHRs and other digital tools that have the potential to improve efficiency, performance and patient outcomes.

Fast-forward to 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. In crisis mode, healthcare providers swept aside the self-imposed technological constraints and undertook a significant and swift digital transformation. They needed new methods and processes to prevent interruptions in care while maintaining safety for patients and providers.

At the heart of these changes was the adoption of cloud-based solutions. Use of the cloud has opened up incredible opportunities for patients and providers alike. Virtual appointments and online messaging provide new avenues to access care in a timely manner. Primary care doctors and specialists are now able to collaborate online to improve quality of care. And with EHRs online, patients can access their records to see their latest test results, treatment plans and other information, giving them more control over their outcomes.

Driving an Increase in Patient-Centered Care

Spurred on by events over the last two years, cloud adoption is seeing a significant uptick in the healthcare space. What was a $26 billion global market in 2020 is poised to nearly triple in size to $76.8 billion by 2026. The U.S. alone accounts for more than half of the market, with an estimated $16.9 billion share in 2021.

The cloud will continue to play a foundational role for a variety of healthcare applications, but perhaps one of the biggest impacts will be in supporting delivery of patient-centered care.

Cloud solutions are helping to:

  1. Improve access to patient data – Whether it’s the patient’s ability to access their own records online or providers’ ability to collaborate, the cloud is making it easier to get information in a timely and more efficient manner. For example, patients no longer have to wait for a radiologist to burn a CD and then take it to a specialist for review. With the cloud, images and related reports can be read and be shared immediately, regardless of where the clinicians are located. And the chance of a lost CD is eliminated since the cloud offers a secure, reliable way to transmit images.
  2. Offer greater transparency – One of the keys to delivering patient-centered care is gaining a full understanding of the individual and actively engaging them in their outcomes. But for this to become a reality, patients and their providers need access to medical records and open lines of communication matched to patient preferences. The cloud enables centralized access to patient records, giving healthcare providers a full view of the tests, diagnoses, treatments and other patient information. The addition of artificial intelligence (AI) in cloud-based solutions is enhancing care by analyzing the vast amounts of patient data and offering insights that aid in clinical decision making, which can result in faster time-to-treatment and better outcomes.
  3. Enhance communications – In the past, connecting with physicians outside of appointments often turned into a game of phone tag and resulted in multiple voice mails. But with the cloud supporting patient portals, video chat and text messaging, patients and their providers have more ways to communicate. They can quickly exchange information or ask and answer questions electronically at their convenience, and refer back to those messages should they forget something. And the addition of video appointments allows patients to connect from the comfort and convenience of their own home for brief follow-ups that do not warrant a full office visit.

The strong focus on value-based care, combined with successful use of technology during the pandemic, have driven a significant digital transformation in the healthcare space. At the center of these technological changes is the cloud, which allows for an unprecedented degree of collaboration, communication and transparency. By combining these three facets and delivering a more holistic view of the individual, providers can effectively achieve true patient-centered care.