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Here are 3 reasons large health plans should shift to the cloud | Viewpoint

Opinion
Article

What it means to partner with a SaaS provider and link systems with interoperability.

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we do healthcare, emphasizing the need to ease navigation and create more accessibility.

Image credit: Edifecs

Sundar Shenbagam

At the time, we saw organizations, large and small, in healthcare and other industries, make the shift to cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) technology. While SaaS and cloud technology are not new, the pandemic became a tipping point for the healthcare industry which has historically been slower to adapt.

In the past, healthcare systems only invested in upgrades and enhancements when technology had reached end-of-life and was outdated, which varies from system to system. Changing technology infrastructure, processes, and operations across large health plans is like turning a cruise ship — it’s a slow and carefully calculated process, and data shows organizations are coming onboard and reaping the benefits.

By one count, last year there were an estimated 19 major hospitals and health systems that announced plans to or moved their electronic health record systems or digital infrastructure to the cloud. And McKinsey & Company estimates that cloud capabilities have the potential to generate $100 billion to $170 billion in 2030 for healthcare companies.

Other areas that benefit from cloud technology are personalized experiences, improved patient outcomes, value-based care initiatives. and connected care delivery models, like home health or telemedicine. These benefits are largely enabled by cloud and SaaS infrastructure that creates a seamless customer experience and the ability to better identify issues and make quick recommendations, as well as analyze mass amounts of data.

There’s never been more incentive to make the move to the cloud. By opting in, health plans can ditch the expensive and maintenance-heavy hardware and benefit from a hivemind-like system that is compliant from launch and integrated with other key infrastructure. There are three reasons why a large health system should make the change:

  • Data privacy and security
  • Speed and access to innovation and bug resolution
  • Cost efficiency

Data privacy and security

In an industry with overwhelming amounts of personal and identifiable information, and the requirement that every organization must take responsibility for maintaining data access and security, trusting a third party to monitor it has commonly felt like an unnecessary risk to take.

However, recent events forced cloud technology providers to prove that data can be completely isolated, maintained, secured, and encrypted. The successful ones are proving to customers that the sensitivity of healthcare information can still be governed in a meaningful way and is only accessible to the users with proper privileges. Reputable industry organizations like the HITRUST Alliance are granting certifications to organizations that can prove security credibility under the highest standards in information protection. This is a crucial element when considering the cloud and privacy of healthcare data.

Speed and access to innovation and bug resolution

Due to population and information about diseases increasing, healthcare’s data processing needs are constantly growing across the entire ecosystem. Despite increasing data flow, healthcare organizations are still able to embark on a cloud infrastructure transition and get started quickly. In fact, cloud-based projects are often delivered much faster compared to typical on-premises projects.

Once set up, the speed and access to innovation and bug resolution with cloud and SaaS applications introduce many economies of scale. With regular updates to the systems, cloud and SaaS providers reach out across the continuum of their services to provide the most current and compliant updates. With this comes quick updates to systems that in the past may have languished for years. Additionally, if there’s a bug in the code, service or a new innovation, partnering with a cloud or SaaS provider allows all customers to receive a resolution or new tool simultaneously.

This goes together with government-mandated regulations and compliance requirements. Systems connected to cloud services are generally updated and adapted first to assure ongoing compliance with the industry’s evolving regulation.

Cost efficiency

The cloud and SaaS industry market share is expected to grow from $97.44 billion in 2022 to $458.45 billion by 2032, according to Precedence Research. Its rapid growth is not unexpected given the value this technology offers its many users across industries.

Cloud infrastructure introduces a more cost-effective utilization of technology compared to on-premises deployment and maintenance of physical servers. After a successful adoption of cloud infrastructure, health plans are scaling their applications and systems horizontally and experiencing minimized replication of resources, which can dramatically reduce operating costs and improve performance.

With the world’s companies and innovators making these shifts, it’s only natural for the healthcare industry to catch up. As consumers continue to expect integrated experiences and access to information online wherever and whenever, it’s also important that healthcare companies adapt. Making the shift to the cloud is what will take healthcare management into the next era.

With improved cloud-based IT systems, data becomes more secure, member engagement improves, and repetitive tasks are automated. All while reducing worker burnout and tedious administrative processes. All told, with these benefits, especially the point of entry — or cost to the health plan — decreasing, it’s only becoming easier for health plans to transition to the cloud.

Sundar Shenbagam is the chief technology officer of Edifecs.

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