This article by Ambra Health CEO, Morris Panner, was originally published in Forbes on August 13, 2020.
While cloud technology has been a hot topic of discussion in healthcare for several years, some organizations have merely viewed it as a “nice to have.” It may have been on their wish list, or they might have been adopting it piecemeal — but large-scale adoption wasn’t necessarily considered urgent.
However, a pandemic has a way of showing us what’s important, and Covid-19 has made a lot of people think differently about cloud infrastructure.
Cracks In The System
In normal times, many of us are sadly too used to the idea that things take a lot of time in the healthcare system. Everyone is always waiting for something — a lab technician waiting to use the equipment, a doctor waiting to receive test results, a patient waiting for a diagnosis. The act of accessing information itself can be time-consuming, whether it’s having X-rays burned onto a CD and delivered by courier or hunting down an old patient file hidden away on some server.
In an emergency, we feel these problems all the more acutely. This has certainly been the case during the unfolding of the Covid-19 crisis. As Healthcare IT News reported, the outbreak revealed massive weaknesses in data-sharing capabilities in the U.S., with few easy ways to get electronic health records (EHRs) from providers to the CDC.
As a result, the CDC has had to collect most data on Covid-19 cases manually, and that information is often wildly incomplete.
Collaborating In The Cloud
A silver lining could be more a renewed sense of urgency around regulation and innovation in cloud adoption.
Advances in data-sharing over the last few years have made it possible for many researchers from institutions, governments and organizations across the globe to share data, images and insights from their work with each other quickly, ensuring that Covid-19 research is moving forward apace.
For example, because of cloud technology, American and British imaging experts have been able to work together to collect a global dataset of images, enabling ongoing research that has revealed differences in how Covid-19 manifests itself. This would not have been possible if people were trying to share their findings verbally or attempting to ship entire servers across the Atlantic.
Building Global Networks
The pandemic has underscored the need for the international research community to work together toward a common public health goal. Having created and learned new modes and methods for remote collaboration in fighting Covid-19, researchers are sure to be inspired to apply their insights to many other medical research efforts, perhaps leading to an acceleration in the development of therapies for cancer and other diseases.
Some of this is about the creation of new networks and relationships that will be valuable moving forward. In other cases, the partnerships have led to actual interactive, collaborative global databases that can be accessed and contributed to in real time. These will continue to be helpful for future research and may also be able to provide a template for establishing similar databases for other conditions.
A New Way To Think About Infrastructure
Just two years ago, a survey on cloud adoption showed that 35% of the health care organizations surveyed had at least 50% of their data or infrastructure in the cloud. While this has shown that the industry is on the right track, there is still a long way to go.
With the Covid-19 crisis, many organizations have been forced to think about the value of cloud infrastructure in a new light and can see that it isn’t just about convenience — it’s a necessity.
I think everybody is realizing that their infrastructure truly has to be a collaborative global cloud infrastructure. Problems are no longer localized, and you need to be able to be up and functioning regardless of the adversity you might be facing in one location or another.
This experience has spurred a dramatic change in people’s ideas about infrastructure — and one that I believe will bring our industry more life-saving collaborative success in times ahead.