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Benefits of cloud computing in healthcare: Pop health, value-based care

Healthcare should be getting ready for the cloud. At least, that's what one health IT expert thinks. Read his thoughts on cloud computing healthcare benefits.

Although many health IT experts have expressed their concerns about the cloud, it may be that the benefits of cloud computing in healthcare are too good to pass up.

In fact, Joshua Newman, chief medical officer at Salesforce, believes the cloud in healthcare isn't a controversial issue anymore. He believes that healthcare organizations should embrace the benefits of cloud computing in healthcare so they can begin to innovate and tackle initiatives like value-based care and population health.

How important is the cloud in healthcare? What are the benefits of cloud computing in healthcare?

Joshua Newman, chief medical officer, SalesforceJoshua Newman

Joshua Newman: I would turn it around and say, "How important is electricity?" in healthcare in some ways. There was a time when things could work on premises but when we look at the return on the investment or the total cost of ownership, when we look at the overhead required, when we look at the difficulties with upgrades and keeping a system modern and, my favorite, when we look at the innovation potential there is no competing with the cloud. When we look at the ready availability of the interfaces and APIs that allow hybrid applications, when we look at kind of the family oriented needs of solving these problems together: a third-party decision support tool, a transportation company, even if you want to stay clinically focused, hospitals discharge patients to long-term care, post-acute care facilities; 40% of patients who leave the hospital go to some kind of post-acute care facility and often that facility is not owned by the hospital. How do you build those connections?

I don't even think it's controversial anymore and we're never going back to the on-premises world. There are just way too many incentives to keep going in the direction we're going.
Joshua Newmanchief medical officer at Salesforce

If you're working with the on-premises world the IT department in the hospital has to build that connection and it's difficult and it's challenging and there are of course security and privacy and infrastructure issues that make it really challenging. The cloud-based world obviates many of those challenges and issues. It takes many of those costs away, it takes expertise out of the hands of people that might not have it and it puts it in the hands of folks that think about this stuff every single day, all the time. … Mobility and intelligence could never really work in the same way outside of the cloud.

I frankly see the cloud as inevitable in those cases where it's not yet there and stronger and stickier than ever in the cases that are. Again, seven years ago it was a little bit of a foreign concept, it was a little bit controversial. I don't even think it's controversial anymore and we're never going back to the on-premises world. There are just way too many incentives to keep going in the direction we're going.

TechTarget's 2016 IT Priorities Survey
In TechTarget's 2016 IT priorities survey, respondents reported the top benefits realized from using cloud computing.

What's the cloud's role in initiatives like population health and value-based care?

Newman: There's still a bit of uncertainty on the part of organizations to wrap their heads around the cloud. Again, I think it's changing. When it comes to population health and value-based reimbursement there's no better use case for the cloud than that and the reason is because patients span organizations, they're health and wellness is not mediated by what happens when they're on the bed or in a doctor's office, it's by what happens at home, in a physical therapy organization, walking through the park or eating. Those moments can't be mediated by an on-premises system that only really focuses on what happens in a hospital or a doctor's office. As organizations take on the challenges of wellness, prevention and lower cost outcomes, they're going to be required to solve problems that require them to work in the cloud. Again I don't think it's a controversial issue anymore. The question is not whether, it's really how.

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