The healthcare industry may have been cautious to a fault until recently, but it is readily embracing new technologies including the cloud to serve customers better.
Recently, articles have popped up highlighting how robots will help with procedures connected to hair transplants. While helping people look good is a lofty enough aim, an even better goal for robots would be to help people regain health. In fact, scientists and medical personnel are working to do precisely this.
The thing about robots performing surgery, apart from regulatory and safety concerns, is that they need to be equipped with enough knowledge, or a series of continuous instructions, to be able to perform a procedure as complicated and delicate as a surgery. And robots have to be really tiny to be able to reach remote locations of the human body with minimal invasion. So where will they store all the information required to perform an operation that was previously the domain of a surgeon? In the cloud.
Healthcare—ready for change
With wireless communications being ubiquitous now, recent innovations in cloud computing will help develop a whole new world of cloud robotics. While cloud robotics can operate in virtually any area of our lives, it is in the health sector that they will likely have the deepest impact. However, robotics will take another decade or so to become pervasive in our daily lives, so let's confine the discussion to the more ordinary care-givers such as hospitals and physicians.
Although long reluctant to deploy new information technology, the healthcare industry is moving quickly to make up for lost time. Increased digitization of patient data and a rise in collaboration among insurance providers and doctors is leading to greater IT innovation and integration in healthcare. The pressure to integrate patient information and store patient history so that it's readily available on call is driving independent physician practices to embrace the cloud.
What studies say
Imprivata's 2013 Desktop Virtualization Trends in Healthcare report found healthcare organizations more willing to store personal health information (PHI) in the cloud than in the past. By the end of 2013, 30 percent of respondents used cloud computing. And, 40 percent of those organizations using the cloud were storing PHI there.
The unprecedented expansion of mHealth has been fueled by the wildfire spread of mobile technologies. In addition, innovative apps that help individuals address their personal health concerns have made this a popular and personal platform. Wearable devices that monitor your blood pressure, how many calories you burn on your morning jog, how fast your heart beats while on the treadmill and even how well you slept at night are on the way to becoming everyday habits. These devices may be storing collected data on the cloud and providing an analysis of the data all to allow healthcare providers to engage patients with better care. It is a growing opportunity for healthcare providers.
Going a step further, John Sung Kim, CEO of San Francisco-based DoctorBase.com, believes that mHealth apps will evolve into app platforms whose functions can be "rented" as a cloud-based service. In a likely scenario, that patch you wear on your arm will monitor any health parameter that concerns you at a particular time.
And what will hospitals do?
Exactly what we are hoping for, cloud-enabled healthcare informatics will lead to better medical services and efficiency of operations. An efficient organization always leads to reduced costs.
Deploying the cloud does not take a long time. In August 2013, Accenture completed the roll out cloud services to radiology departments across five National Health Service (NHS) hospitals and 23 facilities in just a short ten week period. The cloud services for Radiology Information Systems (RIS) are designed to store secure patient data, facilitate the sharing of data between medical staff and allow for remote access.
There's no end to the kind of uses robots could be put to. Scientists are also working on "soft" robots or robots made up of soft materials. Once networked, these could probably replace your dentist—or dentists could perhaps control five of these remotely, without having to commute to work. Client data could be safely stored in the cloud network and each customer's "usual" be served up. The possibilities are unlimited and we are just at the tip of the iceberg! How do you believe robotics in the cloud could impact the way healthcare will be delivered in the future?