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Survey: Healthcare Moving to the Cloud for Patient Engagement, Analytics

December 1, 2016
by Heather Landi
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A survey from HIMSS Analytics and Level 3 indicates that healthcare organizations are ready to embrace cloud technologies, citing cost savings and the more scalable platform as key motivating factors.

Many healthcare providers already are using the cloud for numerous functions, or have plans to move to the cloud, according to the HIMSS Analytics 2016 Cloud Survey, which polled 105 healthcare provider organization IT and leadership professionals. Thirty-four percent of healthcare provider organizations are currently using the cloud for health information exchange, and 41 percent have plans to use the cloud for this function. Additionally, 35 percent are using the cloud and 38 percent have plans to use the cloud for patient engagement and patient empowerment tools.

The survey results indicate that healthcare provider organizations are increasingly willing to trust cloud technologies with protected health information (PHI). Healthcare provider leaders are testing cloud platforms with back office applications first, with 18 percent currently using the cloud, and survey respondents indicated they have plans to leverage cloud solutions to manage analytics and PACS storage.

Currently, of the healthcare organizations surveyed, 13 percent are using the cloud for business continuity and disaster recovery functions, 6 percent are using it for leveraging cloud for compute cycles to analyze big data and 10 percent are using the cloud for PACS storage. However, close to 50 percent of the surveyed healthcare organizations reported that they have plans to move to the cloud for these functions.

The survey also finds that healthcare leaders’ perception of the cloud has evolved in just the past few years. Only 22 percent of survey respondents were planning to use the cloud for back office functions in 2014, compared to 46.7 percent in 2016 and, similarly, 20 percent were planning to use the cloud for HIE in 2014, compared to 41 percent in 2016.

“In 2014, the cloud was primarily seen as a model that could support HIE and data storage, whereas in 2016, it is being leveraged for a full range of functions including patient empowerment. And, there’s more to come, as the cloud is poised to play a prominent role when healthcare organizations deploy telemedicine, mobile health applications and remote monitoring tools – trends that are inevitable as organizations implement value-based care programs in alliance with the Affordable Care Act,” the report authors wrote.

The survey report also drills down into what is behind the move to the cloud and healthcare provider organizations cited a variety of advantages to using the cloud. Healthcare IT and executive leaders cited cost savings, more robust disaster recovery, more scalable platform for internal requirements and speed of deployment as key motivating factors.



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Challenges and Opportunities: Genomic Data, Patient Care, and the Cloud

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Patient care organizations are moving forward to connect the academic research arms of their universities to the patient care delivery operations in their clinical organizations. And that is leading both to opportunities and challenges.

On the opportunity side, genomic data is now actively being used for rare disease diagnosis; for cancer detection; for the tracking of mutations; and for medication selection for patients.

But the data challenges involved in working with genomic data, particularly in participating in any activities connecting genomics to patient care, are many, and complex.

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The value of artificial intelligence and IoT has been difficult to prove for many health systems - yet these advances in technology are heralded as the ultimate solution to all healthcare problems. Many of these AI and IoT initiatives fail to deliver on outcomes because they focus on the challenges of bringing together data and miss the opportunity to operationalize information.

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Microsoft Healthcare Rolls Out FHIR Server for Azure

November 13, 2018
by David Raths, Contributing Editor
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Developers could use the server to quickly ingest and manage FHIR datasets in the cloud

Microsoft Healthcare has announced the release of an open source project, FHIR Server for Azure, to offer developers access to software that supports the exchange and management of data in the cloud via the FHIR specification.

FHIR Server for Azure on GitHub provides support infrastructure for immediate provisioning in the cloud, including mapping to Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), and the ability to enable role-based access controls (RBAC), the company said. Developers can save time when they need to integrate a FHIR server into an application or use it as a foundation to customize a unique FHIR service.

In a blog post, Heather Jordan Cartwright, general manager of Microsoft Healthcare, said the company “is contributing this open source project to make it easier for all organizations working with healthcare data to leverage the power of the cloud for clinical data processing and machine learning workloads.”

In August 2018, Microsoft joined with Amazon, Google, IBM and other companies in a commitment to remove barriers for the adoption of technologies that support healthcare interoperability, particularly those that are enabled through the cloud and AI and especially FHIR.

Among the points the companies agreed to was: “We understand that achieving frictionless health data exchange is an ongoing process, and we commit to actively engaging among open source and open standards communities for the development of healthcare standards, and conformity assessment to foster agility to account for the accelerated pace of innovation.” 

As an example of how FHIR Server for Azure will work, Microsoft said developers can use the server to quickly ingest and manage FHIR datasets in a cloud environment, track and manage data access, and begin to normalize data for machine-learning workloads.

In August, Josh Mandel, chief architect of Microsoft Healthcare, noted that the company had added support for FHIR to the Dynamics Business Application Platform through the Dynamics 365 Healthcare Accelerator, and developed an open source Azure Security and Compliance Blueprint for Health Data and AI for deploying a FHIR-enabled, HIPAA/HITRUST environment in Azure.


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