For many hospitals, the benefits of migrating their clinical data to cloud storage are too great to ignore.
However, as the importance of data grows with reimbursement tied to quality outcomes, hospitals face a demanding challenge: collecting and maintaining that data in compliance with privacy laws while simultaneously leveraging it to gain insights that lead to cost, quality and efficiency improvements.
For surgical data, this challenge is particularly burdensome due simply to its massive volume, such as high-definition video of an hours-long operation from four different camera angles.
Traditionally, hospitals have maintained their own onsite data centers, but in recent years, they have quickly begun moving to the cloud to take advantage of cost, security, scalability and access benefits – and the trend is likely to accelerate. For example, a recent survey by Netwrix found that 84 percent of healthcare organizations are already using the cloud to store sensitive information, while 69 percent of healthcare providers plan to move more data to the cloud.
As cloud infrastructure becomes increasingly critical to hospitals’ operations, following are four compelling reasons why the cloud is the best choice for storing and maintaining surgical data.
Cost: With hospital operating margins under never-ending pressure, management teams constantly strain to find ways to cut costs without negatively impacting care. Data infrastructure costs are a good starting point, as onsite data warehouses require numerous, expensive resources to maintain. They include the physical space that will house the infrastructure, the IT hardware to store the data, cooling systems for the hardware, and the expert staff to oversee and integrate disparate IT systems.
Migrating to the cloud helps to minimize or eliminate these costs. With cloud infrastructure, hospitals enjoy the benefits of a third-party vendor with processes for operating data centers, as well as experience administering all necessary hardware and software systems.
Scalability: Decision-makers across virtually all industries are inundated with data. A recent report from Cisco found that data-center-storage installed capacity is expected to grow four-fold from 2016 to 2021, to 2.6 zettabytes. For hospitals that employ data centers onsite, scaling up to meet these demands will require additional hardware and more computational power, physical space and people.
As hospitals look to maximize the cost-effectiveness of their onsite square footage, the cloud becomes an attractive option to accommodate future growth in data analytics capabilities.
Security, disaster recovery and regulatory compliance: Cloud infrastructure vendors are experts with well-established processes and deep experience in the realm of data security. Many offer a wide array of virtual services to monitor IT applications, encrypt data, comply with regulations, such as HIPAA, and prevent malicious actions. Simply stated, cloud vendors have already gone to the time, effort and expense to establish strategies and best practices around security, saving hospitals from the need to do so themselves.
Cloud-based systems also offer advantages for disaster recovery, as data is stored securely offsite, and can be retrieved when needed.
Collaboration: As the amount of healthcare data skyrockets, healthcare organizations are presented with a new opportunity: sharing that data with others to improve patient outcomes. For example, payers and providers are likely to find a progressive need to share more data to accelerate collaboration under value-based care arrangements.
Whatever the motivation, the goal is accomplished easier via the cloud than onsite. That’s because data in the cloud can be accessed anywhere via an internet connection. Conversely, accessing data from an onsite center requires a hospital’s IT department to establish direct connections between its own network and those of its partners. Furthermore, the cloud enables hospitals to easily anonymize data and control which data sets partners can access.
The era of “big data” has created new burdens and opportunities for hospitals – namely, how to securely and reliably gather mountains of new information, then harness that information to improve patient care. For forward-thinking hospitals, the cloud provides an opportunity to leverage surgical data to do exactly that – in a cost-effective, scalable, secure and collaborative environment.
Elena Solovyeva is software product manager at caresyntax, a surgical data, analytics and automation company.
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