A CIO approach to advancing healthcare through cloud

healthcare technology / medical data
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This Public Sector Innovation series, in association with AWS Institute and Intel, outlines how CIOs can advance their mission through cloud innovation, acknowledging business challenges while outlining examples of best practice within the healthcare sector.

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In battling on the Covid-19 frontline and weathering a storm with no end date in sight, the healthcare sector is seeking innovation at speed and at scale.

Irrespective of where they are on their cloud journey, CIOs are shifting focus to advanced technologies amid plans to maximise data, personalise healthcare through telemedicine and bolster system resiliency – underpinned cloud, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analytics. But as cloud takes centre stage within healthcare, technology leaders must also acknowledge ongoing security and compliance considerations, building out a modernised approach to transformation in the process.

“There is a confluence of global trends that are causing healthcare organisations to place a higher priority on using data to improve decision making and operational efficiency,” observed Chris Gough, Worldwide General Manager, Health and Life Sciences, Intel.

As outlined by Gough, key trends disrupting the sector include healthcare and payment reform, a growing shortage of skilled caregivers, and demographic shifts related to ageing and the increased prevalence of chronic disease.

In response, the healthcare sector is turning attention to cloud in a move designed to accelerate adoption of data analysis capabilities such as machine learning.

Within this context, CIOs are seeking to leverage predictive analytics capable of allowing healthcare providers to forecast which patients might be at risk from a negative health perspective, allowing earlier opportunities to medically intervene.

“This can be enabled by Amazon SageMaker machine learning service, which has been optimised for Intel processors,” Gough added.

Overcoming internal barriers

Despite growing appetite to maximise data via the cloud, CIOs across the healthcare industry remain hampered by non-technical barriers, chiefly related to people and culture.

In Asia Pacific, this is best illustrated by a disconnect between CIO intentions and boardroom ambitions, emphasising the importance of senior executives being aligned and committed to cloud transformation. To achieve this, CIOs must play a central role in setting clear directions and expectations internally to ensure key stakeholders are working towards the same business goal. Overcoming this cultural roadblock is critical to realising the potential of cloud.

“The most successful organisations moving to the cloud start with an aggressive top-down goal that forces the organisation to move faster than it would have organically,” outlined Dr Julian Sham, Head of Health Business, Asia Pacific and Japan, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

For Dr Sham, training employees on cloud technologies is equally important during the deployment process.

Furthermore, organisations must also avoid becoming paralysed by inaction during the workload migration process, steering away from the temptation to view cloud transformation as an “all or nothing” approach. Instead, Dr Sham advised CIOs to conduct a portfolio analysis to assess each application on a case-by-case basis, building a migration plan spanning short-term, medium-term, and long-term priorities. “For example, does the business want to start with disaster recovery?” he asked.

Central to implementation success is the creation of a strategy which makes business and financial sense, while still delivering the desired patient outcome desired. Such an approach allows organisations to maximise the benefits of cloud across multiple applications at speed, which in turn helps shapes the latter stages of workload migration.

Yet all health and life sciences organisations operate differently due to varying regulatory requirements across the region, meaning a no “one size fits all” approach is applicable to healthcare cloud.

For Gough, analysis at workload and application levels to evaluate requirements for latency, reliability, integration and data size can represent useful tools for CIOs seeking to determine the “best candidates” for cloud migration.

Accelerating cloud adoption

In assessing the healthcare market across Asia Pacific, Dr Sham cited five key CIO motivations for embracing the cloud, starting with enhanced levels of agility.

Firstly, “AWS allows customers to quickly spin up resources as they need them, deploying hundreds or even thousands of servers in minutes,” he outlined. “This means customers can quickly develop and roll out new applications, allowing teams to experiment and innovate more quickly and frequently.”

Secondly, cost savings also ranks high on the priority list as businesses trade capital expense for variable expense, adopting a ‘pay-per-use’ consumption model in the process.

The third reason is elasticity, marking a transition away from customers over provisioning to guarantee enough capacity to handle business operations at the peak level of activity. Instead, CIOs can now provision the amount of resources actually required by the business, supported by an ability to instantly scale up or down depending on organisational needs. “This also reduces cost and improves the customer’s ability to meet user demands,” Dr Sham added.

Another key factor in the decision-making process is the ability for organisations to innovate at speed through the cloud. Using this approach, businesses within the healthcare sector are shifting efforts to allow high-value IT resources to prioritise developing applications capable of transforming customer experience, reducing reliance on the “undifferentiated heavy lifting” of managing infrastructure and data centres.

Finally, Dr Sham said businesses can leverages AWS’s worldwide footprint to deploy globally within a matter of minutes.

“We have teams who work closely with our customers to help them understand where they are, what they are aspiring to achieve, and identify a roadmap for cloud transformation that works for that organisation,” he added.

From an innovation standpoint, Gough added that both AWS and Intel are aligned in sharing a common focus on digital transformation within healthcare, joining forces to help solve challenging industry business problems through technology.

The AWS Institute convenes and engages global leaders who share an interest in solving public sector challenges using technology. For more information about the AWS Institute, please visit: https://aws.amazon.com/institute/

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.