Resilience is the buzzword of the day. Actually, it’s a current business requirement. In the wake of COVID-19, every company wants to have it, build it and sustain it. Healthcare providers are no exception. Urgently moving to scale to meet extraordinary circumstances, they have a critical need for resilient systems to address surge care capacity. And the best way to ensure safe and flexible systems is by investing in a cloud migration -- by tapping into the unlimited computing powering of public cloud services.
In what may be one of the hardest truths of this extraordinary time -- apart from the human suffering -- is that the need for dynamic surge capacity will not disappear when a vaccine is available. As the World Economic Forum has said, we have entered a new era where the risk of future pandemics is high. This forever alters the infrastructure needed to support shifting demands on technology.
Cloud is the answer to systems resilience
The public cloud offers the systems resilience that healthcare providers need in order to sustain operations under severe disruption, flexing to address highly volatile customer demand and managing vastly increased needs for remote network access.
Providers long viewed investing in the public cloud as a risky business because of security concerns. But over the past two years, many have begun their cloud journey buoyed by other industries’ and research institutions’ embrace of its “deny by default” security posture and, most importantly, limitless opportunities for innovation.
There could not be a better time for this. An investment in systems resilience via cloud is an investment in business enablement. A resilient technology infrastructure scales up or down on demand based on real-time changes in usage to support care volume variability. It identifies traffic spikes and automatically adjusts capacity to drive responsiveness with new cost efficiencies.
Here’s how cloud is ideal for the “now” of surge capacity and the “next” of the business of healthcare:
- Cloud handles patient data. Health systems can handle large waves of patient data over time by using cloud databases and storage services that ingest large amounts of data in real time with low latency to other digital operations that query and analyze on those same clinical datasets. Cloud provides a platform and an execution engine for digital health tracking between medical devices and EHR applications tapping into the same analytic execution engines and virtual data exchanges.
- Cloud supports new ways of delivering care. Telehealth came into its own in the early weeks of the pandemic out of necessity. Demand for telehealth is forecasted to soar by 64.3% in the US in 2020. This leaves healthcare providers with rigid infrastructures struggling to keep up with demand. With virtual health services a cornerstone of the new future of healthcare, ill-equipped infrastructures are no longer an option. With nimble cloud-native services, assembled into a responsive platform, providers can deliver surge capacity in hours, not days or weeks.
- Cloud enables new workforce models. The pandemic has put unimaginable strains on the healthcare workforce, including patient-facing and back-office roles. With a cloud-powered talent management platform, providers can introduce new flexibility into how resources are used, which is especially critical at times of peak demand. With a “liquid” approach to roles and teams, they can pool resources as necessary, putting the right people on the right work at the right time.
- Cloud evolves population health management. Healthcare organizations can evolve social determinants of health (SDOH) data strategies by looking beyond high-level population segmentation to use case-based, data-specific efforts focusing on communities. Organizations can build a cloud-native digital platform that combines third-party data, population data, SDOH data and data from patients to develop more preventative and personalized interventions.
Surge capacity today is business resilience tomorrow
The cloud journey is as much about building surge care capacity today as it is about seeding long-term business transformation. The business benefits are far reaching -- from interoperability across the healthcare system to flexible consumption models and the potential to reduce capital expense outlays while maintaining a more flexible IT environment. The more that healthcare providers recognize this “long tail” of their investments in cloud, the better positioned they are to fight the virus with resilience that lasts.
Oleg Kucheryavenko, MD, MPH, is the North America Cloud and Innovation Lead at Accenture Health and a physician executive who helps clients transform the healthcare enterprise and create new revenue streams through innovation, improved productivity, and agility enabled by the cloud. Oleg has more than 12 years of clinical and industry experience as an ophthalmologist and strategy consultant and executive at Oxfam, the World Bank, and UnitedHealth Group. He has also published with Harvard University, the World Economic Forum, and the World Bank.