Healthcare IT Services: The Paradigm Shifts and Cloud Computing


May 22, 2015
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The relationship between the medical field and IT is dynamic. Exploring shifting changes highlights the evolving policy reforms in healthcare and accelerating advances in medical technology have both cemented IT’s fundamental role in healthcare. The first wave of legacy-based platforms in the medical space was centered primarily on billing.

The fragmented, single-minded solution did not breed an end-to-end solution that was assisting doctors, dentists and pharmacists in optimizing patient care. The trends in healthcare IT services have shifted dramatically, IT has revolutionized the medical field by offering fully integrated, comprehensive solutions that tackle all elements of healthcare and even niche-based solutions that automate, make easy important medical tasks.

Need IT Help?

If you’re a healthcare professional – such as a physicians, dentists, optometrist, pharmacists etc. – and need a strategic partner to help with your growing IT needs, then Fidelity IT Solutions is the right partner for medical office and health organizations. We provide round-the-clock IT support for various healthcare organizations in the Greater Toronto Area and surrounding Ontario communities and Southern California. Our Toronto number is 647.693.9124. healthcare IT services

The fast-moving paradigm shifts in the technology world has meant that doctors, dentists and pharmacists want to keep-up with the latest IT drifts and offset skyrocketing medical costs. The end-goal for physicians and healthcare practitioners is to leverage IT to automate and streamline workflows, speed-up medical care delivery times and improve patient care. On the flip side, IT is responsible for deploying systems that can help ensure that healthcare and clinical staff have access to software applications and data when they need it. IT is essentially an enabler of medicine in terms of managing patient care, driving down operational costs and increasing staff productivity. All signs show that while IT will continue to face interoperability / compatibility issues, regulatory and security challenges in the medical workspace, the role of IT in healthcare will continue to expand in the near future and efforts to synergize are in full-swing.

Although IT requirements for the healthcare industry will continue to exponentially rise, it is imperative that IT managed service providers will continue to look to slash costs as this marriage deepens. It is the responsibility of technologists to look for innovative ways of cost containment within the medical space through ingenuity and creativity. IT needs to address the challenges that are occurring on the ground in doctors and dental offices, hospitals, radiology centers and medical laboratories and that necessitates that deployment and management strategies result in a more integrated, agile and virtualized IT ecosystem for physicians and healthcare staff. IT has to also bring synergy to their technological strategies within the regulation-heavy medical industry and predict where the healthcare industry is heading. So how does Canada’s healthcare IT services stack-up against our neighbours to the south?

In the United States of America, and according to the Gartner Group, close to $90 was spent on integrating electronic health records (EHRs), health information exchanges (HIEs) and other healthcare IT projects.  Canadian legislation is emulating the American one where governments at the federal, provincial and municipal levels have put forward incentives, through grants and tax breaks, to try to help modernize the trans-formative changes that IT is bringing. The government feels compelled to respond and views IT as bringing positive changes to the healthcare industry. Canada’s legislation is trying to spearhead the drive for faster adoption of IT for doctors, dental offices, lab technicians and hospitals. The end-goal of legislation should be to ensure that transparency, open-up and secure communication lines between healthcare professionals, and help patients make informed decisions.

Changes in the medical field and IT advancements have resulted in forced IT to look to newer models for gathering, holding, sharing, and displaying clinical information, patient records, and diagnostic and imaging centers. Instead of relying on an out-dated, decentralized and dispersed devices, such as stand-alone desktops or laptops, IT providers are adopting a more centralized, collaborative and unified platform. Cloud computing and virtualized environments, will be able to leverage thin-clients, enables physicians and front-line healthcare professionals to securely log-in and immediately access shared software portals, such as Electronic Medical Records (EMR), patient files and clinical forms and knowledge bases. From a security standpoint, a secure overlay of data encryption, which helps inflowing and outflowing data from your end-users, is protected at every step of the way.

Cloud services are driving significant shifts in IT deployments and models. Cloud computing is being widely adopted across multiple industry lines because it offers numerous upsides that cannot be ignored. While security and privacy is a major concern for every type of business, the medical field requires enterprise-grade security measures in place. For front-line health professionals, data-centric and file level encryption must be universalized and deployed across all information systems. Permission settings must be authenticated and spelled-out so that only authorized, front-line physicians, caregivers, nurses and examiners can access the database repositories. A secure overlay of data encryption, which helps protect sensitive data that is inflowing and outflowing from various end-points, such as desktops, mobiles and laptops must be protected at all time.

The scalability and allocation of resources are major benefits of cloud computing and virtualization. To virtualize your systems means that you can share resources across your environment to various end-users, such as bolstering your systems with processing power, storage capacity and applications. Cloud computing has a self-provisioning platform that enables you to order cloud services on-demand instead of having to integrate new, expensive physical hardware to an on premise server environment. There is a built-in scale-up or scale-down functionality that allows you to control the services that you would like to leverage, re-assign and utilize.

As cloud sequencing is bolstered by new technology waves, a multitude of medical and healthcare centers are changing-over to the cloud, either partially or holistically, and piggybacking private, public or hybrid clouds options. Adopting a virtualized model, such as cloud computing, brings forward many challenges but those challenges are overturned when considering the benefits of using simplified workstations are too obvious to miss for physicians, nurses and other front-line healthcare practitioners. It needs to be recapped:

More Security and Safeguards: When looking at thin clients, they do not store data because all of the data is engrained into your secure cloud platform. This enables healthcare IT service providers to ensure the security of the information that is being put into your environment and allows them to implement backup scheduling that will ensure that your data is redundant. This simplifies the process. Furthermore, IT technicians can shutdown end-point and individuals from accessing prized resources and information, if an employee has retired.

Consistency and Dependability: Being connected to the cloud means that you are have anywhere, anytime access to the cloud environment. Thin clients do not have movable parts and have no operating system, so vulnerabilities, viruses and corruption happens in much less frequency and reduced. Most employees personalize their company-issued laptops and desktops. When thin-clients are issued, which are connected to virtualized, centralized cloud computing environment, customization becomes impossible.

Drive Costs Down: It is much more costly to constantly provision a desktop – from continuous software upgrades to replacement hardware issues – over a thin client which access the resources and is not standalone. PCs always come equipped with maintenance costs with various wear-and-tears. The product lifecycle of thin clients also far outlast those of a desktop/ laptop. Studies have shown that thin clients last, on average, about twice as long as PCs. Furthermore, thin clients are energy-savers and consume significantly less than a PC, about one-tenth of it.

Always Accessible: Thin clients are mobile and are roaming, and allow for streamlined profiles to be accessed through the cloud. An end-user can securely access information from tablets and other mobile devices using secure pathways and channels to access data and will only need an internet connection to do so. The rapidly rising adoption of mobile devices have meant that medical personnel will want to access information and data whenever they need to. Using the cloud computing applications, doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and other clinical professionals are not tethered to hulking PCs.

The Canadian healthcare industry must look to cloud technologies in order to improve patient care as it enables and provides a universal, on-demand framework that can be accessed by authorized personnel.  Cloud computing pools together sharable computing resources – such as applications, files and data – and self-provisioning infrastructure that can scale up-or-down depending on your requirements. From an IT perspective, the management levels are lowered, meaning that you have to pay less for Service Level Agreements (SLAs). While IT has grown at a fast-rate in the Canada’s healthcare industry, there is still a lot of room for improvements, growth and adoption, such as virtualizing infrastructures, utilizing private cloud over the public cloud – which puts patient information at risk because of security issues – or the adoption of service-oriented architectures that will healthcare IT services.

Before on-boarding cloud computing and other virtualization models, privacy and security concerns must be addressed in a comprehensive format. Canada’s IT industry, while is booming and bullish, is not as advanced and innovative as its American counterparts, and this especially resonates in the security realm. On the deployment front, the adoption of cloud computing does not need to be an all or nothing. Doctor’s offices that need an IT infrastructure revamp or cloud computing realignment could start with specific services for their medical office as not to overwhelm front-line healthcare staff with the changeover. To use medical terminology, the health care and IT marriage is right now in its embryonic stages. The push to leverage information technology systems and resources to make doctors, dental offices and the jobs of nurses easier must be considered and embraced. Medical offices and organizations should not be dissuaded from embracing IT because they do not have in-house IT technicians to address their technical needs. The need to outsource their IT must be considered and organizations like Fidelity IT Solutions, a Toronto managed service provider can definitely help with the transition and assist with networking and help desk support needs. If you need healthcare IT services, do not hesitate to call us.

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