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Cloud computing has changed the capabilities of business, and that now includes the healthcare industry. Backers of this technology point to its scalable capabilities so healthcare professionals can achieve better overall efficiencies. But this wasn't always possible.

Today, however, analytics, collaboration and better tracking can be streamlined through the cloud. But how do these capabilities translate into action and better service for patients and more effective tools for healthcare professionals? Here's a look.

1. Collaboration

As healthcare professionals continue to look for ways to improve patient outcomes, the exchange of data and other pertinent information will be key. Practice management software and the cloud has made collaboration easier, as valuable patient information can be stored on these systems. Healthcare professionals can then access relevant, essential information from anywhere in the world.

Additionally, the collaborative nature of the cloud makes it easy for large, multinational companies to share pertinent information with even the smallest company instantaneously. When hospitals and private practices integrate cloud storage, however, they must put a priority on patient privacy. Cloud storage and backup services, including those sold by Mozy, guarantee military-grade security and strict data protection, so only key stakeholders can access these private, confidential materials.

2. Remote Care

Workflow never truly becomes as issue other than in times of disaster. Furthermore, when disaster strikes, the places in which people need help are not always readily accessible, meaning healthcare professionals must improvise and work with the information they have on hand. But now they're not alone, as cloud computing can help organizations communicate so the right people are in the correct places.

3. Electronic Health Records

In a perfect world, more electronic health records would be shared between hospitals and outpatient private practices. While providers across the healthcare continuum are not fully on board with interoperability, or the sharing of electronic patient records between various healthcare entities, others are quickly seeing the benefits of digital healthcare.

Some major hospitals, like Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, have already signed contracts with large EHR providers. BIDMC has partnered with Athena Health on a 20-year contract to adopt the hospital's EHR, which will make collaboration with other hospitals more streamlined. While EHR providers are still not integrated in all major hospitals, look for the trend to continue as cloud computing becomes more affordable on a major scale.

4. Future Trends

Cloud computing provides the same functionalities for less money on a much larger scale. With a dedicated cloud provider, the onus is no longer on the hospital to upgrade its cloud capabilities and functionality. One reason the cloud is so cost effective is due to the easily upgradeable nature of dedicated cloud services — and the price tag for these top-rated industry services decrease regularly.

For instance, Amazon's S3 cloud service saw 10 price drops in the first five years of its existence. At the same time, the cloud service provider's features continue to expand. In the last year alone, this service has offered 10 additional price drops, along with the inclusion of more added features.

Typically, a hospital would find compatibility issues when new software was installed on institutional computers. But the cloud is all about rapid innovation without the hassle of reformatting system networks and devices. With the rate of improvement in the industry, look for the future of cloud computing to free up IT workers to focus on issues like infrastructure and administration.
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