IT SYSTEMS

What advantages does cloud computing offer to the NHS?

Scott Murphy, Director of Cloud and Advanced Solutions, Ingram Micro UK & Ireland

Faced with an ageing population with chronic illnesses to diagnose and treat, the NHS is under severe financial pressure. The rising costs of care, coupled with outdated technology and increased patient expectations represent a significant challenge; not just regarding treatment, but also prevention, public health and the security of information.

Compounding the problem is a stretched workforce is going above and beyond to meet demands. Technology has been hailed as a solution to help support services and ease pressures, but faced with reduced budgets, what is the ‘right’ technology to invest in?

This is a question that the health industry has recently been trying to answer. A recent PwC report found that investment in the right technology could deliver net benefits between £8 and £13 billion by next year. Modern technologies can help to improve efficiencies, accessibility and reduce costs.

Delivering value for money

However, available solutions are not in short supply and it can be tricky to discern which ones would deliver the best value. In addition to suiting the intended purpose, solutions must be secure. Cybercriminals target healthcare organisations, as patient data is very valuable on the dark web. To keep it safe, solutions must ensure that patient data is stored, transferred and processed with minimal risk. Modern treatment plans can mean that medical staff are dispersed across departments and even countries, even when treating one patient. In these cases, the ability to collaborate safely and efficiently is critical.

Choosing the ‘right’ solution must also consider the legacy software in situ and any areas for improvement. Technology already plays an important role in the healthcare sector and it is central to processes. These solutions support medical staff in providing a high-quality service to a discerning public in everything from document management to the medical equipment itself.

The cloud provides security, scalability and agility

Cloud services could be the answer to improving efficiencies and meeting needs. NHS Digital recently declared public cloud services to be a safe location for healthcare providers to store confidential patient information. However, this is provided that certain data sovereignty conditions are met. In addition, official guidelines were issued to help healthcare and social care organisations move data safely and securely from on-site servers to cloud services.

The cloud offers healthcare providers the option to quickly deploy services without large upfront capital expenses. As cloud computing is an on-demand service, there is better flexibility on IT spending. Additionally, it reduces the IT team’s workload as maintaining the cloud platform or infrastructure is not required.

Cloud computing – together with mobile infrastructure – can provide reliable and secure communication channels between medical professionals. Clinicians will be able to improve the care delivery process through collaboration and coordination. Cloud computing’s comprehensive back up and fast system recovery features reduce the risk of health information being lost or inaccessible during hardware outages.

Legacy systems and outdated mindsets can represent barriers to progress

Even when it is clear that new solutions are better suited to the needs of medical personnel and patients, outdated legacy systems and existing culture can slow adoption. Navigating these issues can be difficult, so healthcare providers must ensure that new software is easy to use, integrates with existing technologies and not introduce friction to processes. If these boxes are unticked, there is a risk that medical staff could use unsanctioned workarounds, putting the safety of patient data at risk. Cloud solutions meet these needs and provide the added advantage of increasing accessibility, regardless of location. To accommodate more devices and software – especially at busy periods – there is also the ability to scale, which ensures that a consistent level and quality of service is maintained.

It is important to invest in the most appropriate technology to bolster and improve processes in the NHS. Solutions should help address the challenges that the NHS will continue to face, meeting the needs of patients and healthcare staff with efficiency and transparency. Cloud computing offers the security, agility, scalability that the healthcare industry needs when faced with a population who need more medical interventions. In addition, it offers security features which help to keep patient data safe from cybercriminals. Ultimately, moving to a cloud model will reduce risk and improve the quality of care.

 

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