Sunday, 22 May 2011

Cloud Computing in Healthcare

Cloud Computing in Healthcare

This is the era of super computing and its usage is wide spread from universities and healthcare organizations to life sciences companies and governments worldwide. There has been constant pursuance across the globe to use computing powers to the fullest. The concept of cloud computing is a product of those efforts. The power of computing measured in terms of tens of trillions of computations per second is now applied to delivering personalized medical information, computational chemistry and biology over the web.

The idea behind the concept is to network large groups of servers that have low cost PC configuration to do distributed data processing activities across the network using specialized connections. The industry has been always uncertain whether they need software that is located centrally or have software that resides on the user's system. With the development of high speed networks and with highly sophisticated and ever evolving cheap server technology the computing capabilities are being shifted to data centers. Cloud computing is quite similar to grid computing but it is a more powerful, hybrid and a safer computing arena.

Cloud computing can be defined as a set of virtual servers working in tandem over the internet. The applications are easily accessible through the internet and these applications use large data centers and powerful servers that host web applications and services. Grid computing involves dividing large tasks into smaller tasks and running those in a number of parallel systems. In contrast cloud computing architecture is a collection of resources which are managed dynamically and can be provisioned, de-provisioned, monitored and maintained at any point of time.

There would a vast influence of cloud computing in healthcare. With healthcare providers looking at automating processes at lower cost and higher gains cloud computing can act as an ideal platform in the healthcare IT space. Cloud computing could be seen as a boon to healthcare IT services as a number of hospitals could share infrastructure with vast number of systems linked together for reducing cost and increasing efficiency.

This also means real-time availability of patient information for doctors, nursing staff and other support services not within the country but possibly across various countries as medical professionals can access patient information from any internet enabled device without installing any software. In the cloud computing scenario the EMR software or the LIS software and information are located in the central server and not on the users or computer.

Patient information and data can be accessed globally and resources can be shared by a group of hospitals rather than each hospital having a separate IT infrastructure. Cloud computing would help hospitals to achieve more efficient use of their hardware and software investments and increase profitability by improving the utilization of resources to the maximum. By pooling the various healthcare IT resources into large clouds, hospitals can reduce the cost and increase utilization as the resources are delivered only, when they are required. The use of cloud computing architecture helps is in eliminating the time and effort needed to roll a healthcare IT application in a hospital.

Healthcare IT vendors need to evolve and introduce cloud computing infrastructure as it would prove a cost efficient model for automating hospitals, managing real-time workload, reducing IT complexity and at the same time introducing innovative solutions and updates. The versatile architecture makes it possible to launch web 2.0 applications quickly and also upgrade healthcare IT applications easily as and when required. With hospital across Europe cutting down on costs there is an eminent need for innovative solutions, which can be easily implemented and maintained. The cloud computing architecture can help healthcare IT vendors prioritize innovation of their applications and at the same reduce the implementation time of healthcare IT solutions. The automated framework of cloud computing would provide increasingly cheaper and innovative services.

The adoption of cloud computing would help standardize the infrastructure for healthcare IT solutions in contrast with the current highly disparate situation. In addition, vendors get to specify the infrastructure and leverage the implementation to adopt aspects such as SAN storage. Since a lot of the hardware servers are virtualized, the cost is reduced tremendously and the only other requirement might be the use of middleware.

Vendors could also offer hospitals the option of pay by use of resources in CPU hours, or gigabits consumed and transferred, which is quite compelling. Cloud computing also helps vendors with hospitals hesitant to sign long-term healthcare IT services contracts as with a cloud infrastructure there is no long term commitment. At the same time the clouds can support nearly any type of healthcare IT application the hospital might want to implement as long as it does not require any specialized hardware.

In a highly competitive healthcare market it is important for healthcare IT vendors and hospitals to adopt innovative solutions in order to reduce cost and increase efficiency. Cloud computing would help in enhancing capabilities and provides tremendous value by achieving efficient use of software and hardware investments. This kind of infrastructure drives profitability by improving resources utilization and increasing their scalability.

Currently there are very few companies such as Microsoft, and Google, who are dabbling in cloud computing technology. However seeing the long term benefits of such a technology many more players are expected to join the bandwagon. There is tremendous promise for cloud computing infrastructure in the healthcare industry and is an ideal tool to leverage computing power at low cost.

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