The following is a guest article by Sunnie Southern, Vice President of the Health & Life Sciences Division at Onix. Sunnie is one of our A-List speakers at our new EXPO.health Experience Series. Sunnie will join Rasu Shrestha and other leaders in an interactive discussion about health IT resiliency and how health IT professionals and healthcare organizations can confront reality and reimagine the future of healthcare. Learn more about this truly unique experience here.
It is an understatement to say that this year has been filled with massive changes in healthcare. The pandemic shone a vivid spotlight on many challenges health and life sciences (HLS) organizations faced almost immediately.
These organizations quickly discovered they needed to enable their employees to work remotely, clinicians to care for patients virtually, and researchers to collaborate openly with assured, secure, and compliant access to relevant data.
We have seen companies that embraced technology to help address these needs. Those that did this have enjoyed a thriving patient-first philosophy. For them, embracing technology has meant embracing the public cloud.
A September 2020 Markets and Markets report shows that there is an upward trajectory in cloud adoption. The estimated market size of the healthcare and life sciences computing market, $64.66 billion, is predicted to have a 17% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2026.
The pandemic has helped spur that uptick, fostering a strong appetite for cloud computing because of its ability to securely and reliably support agile remote healthcare work, telehealth/virtual visits at scale, and surges in overall system usage.
Facing the New Normal with the Reliability of the Cloud
The cloud inherently drives adaptability, flexibility, and enhanced security, all of which have been vital in 2020. On the business side, organizations across the healthcare and life sciences sector need to support remote healthcare workers. They also need to connect with patients and customers where they are, rather than in a physical office.
Telehealth and virtual health visits have increased massively since the pandemic’s onset, with over one billion new virtual visits for 2020 according to Forrester Research. In order to handle these spikes in usage, healthcare and life sciences organizations require an infrastructure that can flexibly scale to meet the data and application demands that thousands of virtual visits place on their systems.
Like in many sectors, health and life science organizations have also had to pivot to support thousands of newly-remote workers. With more employees than ever working from home, they have had to ensure secure access to data and applications without overburdening their infrastructure and suffering outages.
Onix client Scott Radner of leading EHR software provider MEDITECH notes that healthcare organizations are moving to the cloud and realizing its benefits in ever-greater numbers.
“Our customer’s primary mission is not IT,” he said. “They’re supposed to focus on caring for the patient, and an on-premise data center is a distraction from the organization’s goals….we can create the solutions they need to practice medicine and care for their patients. MEDITECH can worry about the applications and Google Cloud and Onix take care of the infrastructure.”
Interoperability in Google Cloud
Beyond supporting remote communication and collaboration, healthcare and life sciences organizations are also finding that the pandemic has only amplified the need for a unified view of often-siloed healthcare data.
Further, the unveiling of the interoperability rules from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is accelerating the need for secure, interoperable data exchange. Though adherence to these rules was extended until 2021 due to the pandemic, they still make clear that healthcare organizations must plan to support interoperability and patient access to health information.
Earlier this year, Google released its Cloud Healthcare API. Designed to solve interoperability issues, it secures compliant data exchange between disparate health IT systems and the cloud, allowing healthcare and life sciences organizations to seamlessly, compliantly and securely use that data, analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence tools and applications on Google Cloud.
The healthcare and life sciences team at Onix has unique, first-hand experience with the Google Cloud Healthcare API. Google Cloud selected Onix as its partner for benchmarking the API and developing a guide for configuring and scaling the API for accelerated deployment.
Through benchmarking the Google Cloud Healthcare API and sharing its findings, Onix is helping to ensure that the FHIR store on Google Cloud Platform can scale as much as healthcare customers need, even if that means tens of millions of records.
By developing and sharing a best practices guide for the Cloud Healthcare API, Onix and Google Cloud are enabling healthcare application developers and data scientists to test applications — with the help of lessons learned from Onix and Google’s own testing of the API.
Security and Compliance in the Cloud
While health and life science organizations are increasingly turning to the cloud for seamless access to data and applications, the security and compliance the cloud offers remains paramount.
Organizations like MEDITECH that deal with personal health information (PHI), such as social security numbers, names, addresses and more, must take advanced security precautions. This includes setting up standard operating procedures for audit compliance, implementing security standards in encryption, and ensuring stringent HIPAA compliance. These organizations need to trust that the underlying architecture upon which procedures and systems are built is itself secure.
As Scott Radner offers when discussing how security has factored into MEDITECH’s own cloud journey, “we’ve always felt that the security backing of a company like Google, with hundreds of employees in security roles and with security measures specifically designed for the healthcare space, raises the bar on what we can do.”
It is important to understand that security underpins everything in Google Cloud. Its centralized team of cloud experts ensures customer data remains safe, secure and private in their cloud infrastructure environments.
Google Cloud infrastructure solutions protect users against data breaches by bolstering weaknesses in endpoints and security blind spots and managing the overall risk any computing environment faces.
Making a Case for the Cloud
Reliability, interoperability, and security and compliance are just four vital reasons why cloud computing makes sense in health and life sciences. In an era where connectivity drives not just operations but also innovation and efficiency, the time is right to launch a journey in Google Cloud with the help of a trusted, experienced partner like Onix.
It is time for healthcare and life sciences organizations to transform the way they work now and into the future by capitalizing on this crucial technology today. Google consistently creates technology that’s easy to deploy and use and delivers unlimited possibilities for what organizations can do with it once they migrate. As MEDITECH’s Scott Radner said:
“Cloud technology allows them to do the things they want to do and dream of the things they never could before.”
About Sunnie Southern: Sunnie Southern is the vice president of the Health & Life Sciences Division at Onix, a cloud services provider based in Lakewood, Ohio. Onix’s technology experts help Health and Life Science organizations to realize the power of the cloud to work simpler, smarter and faster in a secure and compliant environment. As a Google Enterprise Partner since 2002 and 11-time Partner of the Year award-winner, Onix has helped hundreds of healthcare and life sciences customers to leverage the full range of Google Cloud technologies. From initial strategy and planning to execution, optimization and ongoing support, Onix is there every step of the way. To learn more about Onix and its work, visit onixnet.com/hls or email firstname.lastname@example.org.