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Healthcare revolutionized by cloud computing

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Typically when we talk about healthcare IT, the concerns are privacy and security – two of the major parameters of HIPAA compliance https://www.atlantic.net/blog/2013/11/27/hipaa-compliant-hosting-requirements-easy-solution-oriented-checklist/. However, data isn’t just important to protect. The way the data is measured, stored, and accessed can be a game changer for various medical issues and millions of patients.

Cloud computing has special applications for the field of medicine. Let’s look at how cloud computing is revolutionizing various aspects of healthcare.

Broad implications for medical research

Cloud computing is making it simpler and more cost-effective to find new treatments of diseases http://www.ihealthbeat.org/articles/2012/10/4/medical-researchers-tap-cloud-computing-for-analyzing-information.  Because of the way the cloud is structured, with extensive resources available as needed, it’s optimized for crunching large pools of numbers to process and understand big data.

Dr. Michael Cunningham, a physician in Seattle, has experienced the significance of cloud computing to target various conditions. His particular point of focus is craniosynostosis, a health problem experienced by young children in which the skull has unified prior to it being safe (because the brain is still growing rapidly). In patients with the disease, the brain is trapped inside a tight spot, which can lead to a host of additional medical difficulties.

Dr. Cunningham and others in his field have been convinced that with the disease, the cells of the bone are not transferring messages to each other properly. Better data, they realized, would mean a big step forward for those searching for a cure. With cloud computing, they found it. Using a massive pool of cloud-based data, the study authors were able to determine commonalities between certain individuals experiencing the disease. The cost and time-consuming nature of the task prior to cloud computing may have meant that study would never have taken place.

Mobile apps for preventative health & monitoring

Dr. Eric Topol recently reviewed a number of types of health-related mobile apps that have become possible in the age of the cloud http://www.npr.org/2013/09/06/219669550/this-docs-prescription-use-this-app-twice-daily. Smartphone apps that provide a monitoring or preventative function cover a broad spectrum.

Simple tasks can be completed through mobile apps, such as a cardiogram or checks of blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Those capabilities are impressive, but they only scratch the service of what is available. One app, for example, monitors to determine whether a person might have sleep apnea, while another checks posture and your ratio of standing versus sitting.

A few of the major healthcare monitoring apps are as follows:

·         Cardiogram: ECG Check and AliveCor both determine any potential incidents of arrhythmia.

·         Glucose: Withings and iHealth  are two choices to monitor blood sugar, through the use of a fingerstick, so that a separate glucose reading device is unnecessary.

·         Sleep apnea: Through an extension that connects to your finger to check your oxygen and heart rate throughout the night, an app made by Masimo allows a reasonable idea of sleep apnea diagnosis and continued measuring.

Much more is to come, of course. One example is an app called iBG that will get rid of the need for fingersticks for blood sugar monitoring. The FDA is currently reviewing that app to determine if it meets regulatory guidelines. The government’s role in cloud-based mobile healthcare is noteworthy (as discussed below).

Another app that’s particularly interesting and not yet available on the consumer market is one that makes microfluidics possible with an extension piece. Essentially consumers would be able to conduct various types of tests that until now have been conducted in labs. It’s not yet possible to do a complete DNA analysis, but it is possible to check the genotype to reveal possible sensitivities to medications. Function tests of various organs, such as the kidneys and liver, are also possible using the system.

Various apps are being developed that target mental/emotional disorders, help to prevent asthma attacks, etc.. The list goes on as this market continues to expand.

FDA now involved with mobile app review

In the case of healthcare, cloud-based applications aren’t just exciting. They could actually help save lives. However, the FDA oversees any medical procedures and devices, which now includes mobile apps. Final guidance specific to apps was released in September http://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm369431.htm.

The FDA will not be checking every medical application but only those that it sees as potentially dangerous to the public; the codes of the Federal Drug & Cosmetic Act will not be enforced across the board. Instead, the FDA is focused specifically on apps that do one of two things to a smart phone:

·         allow it to operate as a medical tool, such as some of the cardiogram apps

·         allow it to operate as an extension to a medical tool, such as diagnostic imaging through a cloud-based picture archiving and communication system (PACS).

Certainly the oversight by the FDA will slow down the rate at which apps will be released onto the market, but it can be assumed it will be less likely that a poorly made system gets into the hands of consumers.

 

The cloud is certainly changing what’s possible, allowing for better health and greater freedom for those who need to routinely monitor their levels. Whether you have any of these health conditions or not, you may be interested in testing out some of the apps listed above if you work for a healthcare company. It’s another great way to integrate the business of healthcare with the digital revolution.

 

By Brett Haines https://plus.google.com/u/0/100137311390909550920?rel=author of HIPAA-compliant hosting provider Atlantic.Net https://www.atlantic.net/blog/2013/11/06/hipaa-overview-4-questions-web-hosts-compliance/.