Why hospitals and health insurers are really turning to the cloud

ORLANDO — There’s little debating that healthcare and technology are at an interesting intersection right now. So many big ideas, so much promise. But wide-scale transformation doesn’t just happen.

“All the ideas need doers, those who enable action to shift ideas to execution,” said Aashima Gupta, Google Cloud’s director of global health solutions, here at the Cloud Computing Forum on Monday.

Three such doers also took the stage to offer a glimpse of how they are using cloud computing today and hints about the future: NewYork-Presbyterian, Mercy and Humana.

“By 2022, we’re expecting to move the majority of our applications and infrastructure to the cloud, leaving just 20 percent on-premises,” said David Vawdrey, vice president for analytics and clinical systems at NYP.

It’s not merely embracing the cloud for cloud’s sake. Vawdrey said it’s to improve patient experience, make the hardest parts of tech invisible to users and equip them with patient-facing technologies such as virtual visits.

“Imagine you are asking financial advice. You call the 1-800 number, and Warren Buffett answers the phone,” Vawdrey said. “This is the vision we’re trying to create with telehealth.”

Antonio Melo, director of Humana’s Digital Experience Center, said it’s working to shift from an institution-first model to one that is person-first.

“We’re interested in providing care where people spend the majority or a lot of their time,” Melo said. “How do we reinvent who is improving care in the home? How do we create contextually relevant experiences for what might be considered low-level care? We’re talking about lifecare, and it’s an entirely different thing.”

While acknowledging the cultural shift required to move considerable data sets into the cloud, Curtis Dudley, vice president of integrated performance solutions at Mercy, said that moving to the cloud has also enabled the system to commercialize its cloud services and, in turn, offer them to other hospitals.

Cloud-based “descriptive analytics has led to the development of data science, AI and machine learning,” Dudley said. “Our goal is analytics at the speed of thought so they can walk into meetings to actually make decisions.”

Next up for Mercy?

“Our future on the cloud side is going to be more and more healthcare data in the cloud. We’re working with Epic, Azure [and] Google, and our view is the cloud analytics competent is reaching inside four walls of the hospital and accessing the data in our datacenter. We are sharing data with third parties today through the cloud, in more than 200 different places,” Dudley said. “The more we do, the more people want, internally and externally.” 

Humana Edge CTO Jeff Hawkins said that embracing the cloud opens doors to innovation.

“Cloud is important for the future of how we engage our consumers. We’re taking an approach of automation over lift and shift,” Hawkins said. “We are not moving to the cloud for speed and resiliency, though we think we’ll achieve those. The fundamental drive of the cloud is to improve the experience of our consumers.”

NYP’s Vawdrey agreed that it’s about patient and caregiver experience.

“We want to provide a more comfortable, relaxed environment, where caregivers can deliver high quality, high satisfaction for low acuity patients,” Vawdrey said. “That’s using tech to re-humanize rather than de-humanize healthcare.”

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