There are plenty of benefits to using cloud computing to share health data. Of course, the cloud isn't perfect. When it comes to diagnostic imaging, for instance, massive file sizes make even online access tricky.
But when you pair benefits such as ease of use with improvements such as greater efficiency and lower costs, it's easy to see why more organizations are turning to cloud computing solutions to gather and share digital records.
Online sharing can solve the interoperability problem—the challenge of communication between healthcare providers, including physician's offices, hospitals, and specialty practices, which often have different computer and software setups and use a variety of external devices to store and share images. With cloud computing, resources, software, and data are stored and accessed online—all that's needed is an Internet connection. (And, really, who doesn't have Internet access these days?)
Although government stimulus money will help some healthcare organizations pay for EMR systems, the cost of achieving meaningful use of health information systems is still a big issue. Independent practitioners, in particular, are worried. Similar to a data plan on a smartphone, with cloud computing solutions, organizations only pay for what they use. And another boon to small physician practices, in particular: They don't have to pay for software or hardware or keep data storage onsite—and they don't have to pay for special IT staff to manage, maintain, and service it.
With more than 500,000 outpatient visits per year at Yale-New Haven (CT) Hospital, it is critical that medical imaging records are captured and shared as efficiently as possible and that exams are instantly available to clinicians. "The ability to load and access imaging information in advance of the patient's appointment [improves] productivity and patient care," says Michael Matthews, director of clinical imaging and information systems at Yale-New Haven, which will use a cloud computing platform to collect and share diagnostic imaging information in its new 168-bed Smilow Cancer Hospital and within its trauma unit during emergency transfers from remote locations.