How Microsoft Azure improves healthcare
Today, clinical outcomes often hinge on how efficiently health systems can store and shuttle key patient data between disparate locations. As a result, many are swapping out on-site servers for scalable cloud-based data storage platforms. Since 2014, cloud use among healthcare providers has tripled, according to recent survey data from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. Experts expect this trend to continue, as more than 40 percent of hospitals with on-site storage plan to move key data deposits to the cloud in 2016.
Of course, many of these holdouts are gravitating toward Microsoft Azure, with 42 percent saying they plan to adopt the platform for backoffice purposes. Considering Azure’s growing influence within the industry, this number should come as no surprise. For years, healthcare professionals have trusted the solution to help them maintain compliance and handle key patient data.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which set out federal standards for the storage and transmission of electronic personal health information. The law essentially transformed medicine, forcing healthcare providers to comply with a variety of data security rules meant to protect private patient data. Additionally, healthcare entities must also comply with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, an add-on to HIPAA that requires health systems to notify patients in the event of a data breach. The law also mandates the meaningful use of electronic health records technology.
Of course, physicians can’t single-handedly keep track of the data needed to maintain and show compliance under these laws – they must use a data storage solution. Most turn to Microsoft Azure, as the platform included an easy-to-access interface, robust data security features and specialized tools for physicians who need to securely access patient data on the move in a fast-paced clinical setting.
Azure even includes modules for health systems taking the hybrid-cloud approach. For instance, its Connect feature establishes secure, HIPAA- and HITECH-compliant connections between on-site servers and cloud storage, Eweek reported.
“With many health systems turning to cloud-based data storage solutions, Microsoft Azure will surely help facilitate even more healthcare innovation in the years to come.”
Handling key patient data
In recent years, the Microsoft Azure team has moved past compliance and designed platform features that not only allow doctors and other clinical staff to manage data but also collect and access it in the most critical environments. In 2014, the technology company collaborated with GE Healthcare to migrate its many clinical applications to the cloud and helped deploy Centricity 360™, a cloud-based diagnostic image exchange that enables physicians and clinical personnel in different locations to view images and work collaboratively to make diagnoses and formulate treatments, GE officials reported. Microsoft too had a hand in developing DoseWatch10 Explore, which tracks data for computed tomography machines.
Last year, the Azure team partnered with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to create a new generation of cloud-enabled healthcare monitoring devices that gather individual patient data and use it to chart out institution-wide clinical trends, according to a university news release.
Project coordinators believe these interoperable devices could reduce the occurrence of preventable yet deadly clinical complications. Currently, as many as 400,000 patients die in these circumstances every year, according to research published in the Journal of Patient Safety.
“Today’s intensive care patient room contains anywhere from 50 to 100 pieces of medical equipment developed by different manufacturers that rarely talk to one another,” Dr. Peter Pronovost, senior vice president of patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins, said. “We are excited to collaborate with Microsoft to bring interoperability to these medical devices, to fully realize the benefits of technology and provide better care to our patients and their families.”
With many health systems turning to cloud-based data storage solutions, Microsoft Azure will surely help facilitate even more healthcare innovation in the years to come.