Many years ago, we relied on snail mail and telegraph to conduct business and to stay in touch with friends and family. It wasn’t until the telephone was mainstream, however, that regular long-distance communication became feasible. Consumers no longer had to rely on slow methods to keep one another informed—communication was now fast, efficient, and easy. And today, we have the added benefit of the internet to keep us connected with friends and colleagues.
The healthcare industry is always changing, especially with the shift taking place over the past decade to convert doctors’ offices to electronic systems. In recent years, the cloud has helped solidify and standardize health IT solutions. Even though not all practices have utilized cloud technology yet, it appears that most will in the future. Just like consumers eventually saw the added benefits of telephone communication, physicians are beginning to see the benefits of the cloud over the traditional client-server model of doing business.
Small practices in particular have a lot to gain from the cloud, not least of which is a better return on investment. Rather than purchasing the hardware required to run an EHR, a method that requires a large sum of money at installation, clinics can move their data to the cloud for a small monthly fee, no additional hardware, server, or IT team required.
Each provider who connects to the cloud can also help reduce national health costs, as the cloud further enhances communication and decreases the cost burden on a practice. Providers can even utilize the cloud even further by contributing to a better understanding of the effects of the environment and genes on health.
And finally, in the event that hardware fails, all data stored in the cloud is safe, so even if your files aren’t backed up rest assured that your data will be kept safe.
Cloud computing is changing the way doctors practice medicine. With an internet connection and an electronic device of their choice, doctors can access/edit records from the office, home, or any other location; doctors can “visit” with patients online, via video conferencing software like Skype, or through secure email or patient portals; and office administrators can easily manage billing, scheduling, and other office tasks.
Aside from the basic cloud capabilities outlined above, what doctors once only hoped for is now possible in the cloud, such as voice dictation on a tablet, smartphone, or computer. Some doctors are already employing a Siri-esque workflow into their practice.
The cloud hasn’t always been as popular as it is now, and it is unlikely that the client-server solution will die out completely. However, the cloud has opened up a whole new world of innovation in healthcare, and its benefits are limitless.