Cloud Services Provide Critical Continuity for Healthcare Providers During COVID Crisis

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Few fields have been transformed as radically by COVID-19 as healthcare. A high-touch profession has remade itself around virtual consultation, remote diagnosis, and video collaboration.

Healthcare providers have had to rethink patient relationships as in-person interactions became minimized. Telehealth and other cloud-based services, which already had gained traction among many healthcare providers, have become critical components for ongoing care during the pandemic.

Software and services providers across the UK have stepped up, with the help of cloud-based services from Amazon Web Services (AWS), to assist healthcare providers address short-term needs. But they are also likely changing the nature of healthcare as we know it.

For example, Visionable is addressing the intense loneliness that many COVID-19 patients face in recovery. Its namesake product enables teams around the world to collaborate over video. Realizing the desperate need for patient connection, Visionable devised a way for patients to make cloud-based video calls to loved ones without impacting Wi-Fi bandwidth in hospitals.

“Our approach was to make it quick, secure, and easy for all sides,” said Visionable CEO Alan Lowe. The Visionable Connect app requires no download or IT involvement. Seven NHS Trusts have since adopted the technology.

Also helping healthcare providers and patients stay connected is Bleepa, an instant messaging app for radiologists and others who work with high-resolution images. “It’s a clinical-grade version of WhatsApp,” the popular consumer messaging service, explained Tom Oakley, CEO of Feedback Medical, which developed the app.

Bleepa combines rapid transmission of images such as X-rays and MRI scans with chat and annotation in a secure and regulatory-compliant package. It enables clinical teams to work in a connected way, both in and out of hospitals. The system ties into hospital image archives and includes integrated workflow so clinicians can use images to follow patients through the healthcare system. Next up: integration with the Amazon Chime videoconferencing service.

Scale and speed with cloud infrastructure

With clinicians and patients isolated at home in record numbers, the NHS needed to quickly enable telemedicine at scale. A virtual workspace and online video consultation solution from London-based Q doctor was up to the task.

Q doctor partnered with connectivity provider Cloud Gateway to build a working proof of concept of the Q health app within 10 minutes on Cloud Gateway’s PRISM platform. The full system was up within a week, and more than 2,000 clinicians have been onboarded to the platform. “Q health got hundreds of self-isolating clinicians working again,” said Dr. Chris Whittle, Q doctor’s CEO.

Another telemedicine example comes from Proximie, a London company dedicated to sharing the world’s best clinical practice, scaling healthcare expertise through a combination of AI, augmented reality, and real-time video communications. As COVID took its global grip, surgeon travel was restricted. As a result, the optimal way to treat patients such as 31-year-old Mo Tajer, who had a cancerous tumor on major blood vessels in his abdomen, was to use Proximie to connect a surgeon from Seattle to virtually scrub in to those, 4,700 miles away, in London. “It was kind of like being the player on the tennis court and having the coach in the wings,” said Ms. Archie Fernando, Consultant Urology Surgeon at GSTT Hospital in London. 

Proximie is used in over 40 countries, with thousands of users and hundreds of surgeries completed each month.  COVID-19 was “an incredible catalyst for technology adoption,” said Marcus Watson, Proximie’s chief technical officer. “Processes that would have taken years were deployed in weeks, with the sole purpose of saving lives.” 

Proximie customized its software so it works at low bandwidth and latency so hospitals could roll it out in less than an hour. “Lots of clinicians are now asking why they would ever go back to the way they did things before,” said Watson.

Indeed, the investments that many healthcare technology providers made in cloud-based infrastructure allowed them to pivot quickly to address short-term COVID-19 needs, but the innovations could also have a positive effect on patient care well beyond the current crisis.

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