Tony Nkuna, Senior Presales Solutions Consultant for TechSoft International. 

By Tony Nkuna, Senior Presales Solutions Consultant for TechSoft International

Healthcare providers have turned to the cloud to manage emails and electronic medical records (EMR). In turn, the real-time data is made available to healthcare professionals as they look at more effective ways of improving patient care.

This has seen the market for healthcare master data management (MDM) become a significant one. In fact, the global healthcare cloud market is expected to exceed $90 billion by 2027, and as it grows, so does its data.

Contributing to this has been the pressure the COVID-19 pandemic has put on healthcare providers. This has resulted in increased adoption of telemedicine which will continue even after things start returning to normal. The reality is that users have enjoyed the convenience, and healthcare practitioners are not limited by geography.

But while telemedicine has been beneficial, it cannot help in critical cases. During the peak of the pandemic, patients stopped coming in for heart failures, strokes, and illnesses that would otherwise have required immediate attention due to a fear of the virus.

Hospitals and healthcare providers had to balance offering online services while still making sure patients who need to come in person can do so safely. The accessibility of healthcare data has helped address these challenges.

For instance, advanced analytics saved lives by enabling the scheduling and prioritisation of medical cases by identifying patients at risk. Even now, when the number of daily COVID-19 infections have dropped, elderly patients with underlying conditions can benefit significantly from this data-driven approach.

Moreover, data analytics can help target diseases, spot symptoms and trends, and share information with public health agencies in case of disease clusters beyond COVID-19. With new technology, healthcare providers can meet customer’s changing needs while still reaching the most vulnerable populations.

Cloud agility

Having data available in the cloud means providers can drive improvements in cost management, data access, analytics, compliance, and disaster management, among other areas. Cloud computing enables health facilities to use remotely accessible servers to store large data volumes securely without infrastructural costs and operational expenses. Because they work on subscription and pay-as-you-go models, health providers pay only for what they use.

Furthermore, reliable cloud infrastructure can centralise medical records, enabling instant access to data. Therefore, a healthcare provider can transmit information to support organisations such as payers and regulators through readily accessible cloud servers to boost collaboration and improve patient outcomes.

Cloud computing can also support deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to derive accurate insights from collected data. When implemented effectively, analytics can deliver valuable information to support critical decision-making. Remote data storage solutions can be used to regularly back up EMR data and hospital systems in online locations accessible on demand. In the event of a malware attack, providers can prevent the loss of vital hospital and patient information.

 Managing migration

Of course, implementing cloud computing in the healthcare environment does not come without its share of challenges. Firstly, security assurance is the most critical, especially when it comes to the heavily regulated data in healthcare. News of hacking and breaches are prevalent in companies that rely heavily on internet-based solutions. Health providers may be sceptical about data safety when moving it from physical to cloud servers.

Additionally, many providers lack the ability to discover and analyse workloads to determine what they need in a cloud server. This issue often makes migrating hit-or-miss with no guarantee that the provider’s needs are fully met. It becomes especially difficult when dealing with the high number of legacy systems and processes that many providers are still reliant on.

Part of this is the fact that most healthcare data is managed by legacy systems that lack interoperability. Related functions such as patient admission, dosage administration, and bed management are all governed by disparate systems that generate siloed data.

Data that does not flow freely within the health ecosystem results in a narrow view of trends and inadequately informed decisions. This means that important diagnostic testing may not reach the right medical professional in time, putting lives at risk.

Today, healthcare institutions require a data virtualisation platform that integrates all their data sources without significant disruption, so they can focus on saving lives, not finding data. An intelligent platform that can overcome data disruptions ensure that doctors get the insights they require. Benefits include better collaboration, enhanced capability to predict critical conditions, and patient-centric healthcare.

Healthcare in action

International private hospital group Mediclinic International, with its head office in Stellenbosch, has been working with TechSoft since 2013 for healthcare MDM. It operates 76 hospitals and eight sub-acute and specialised hospitals, 18 outpatient clinics, 15 day care clinics, and 450 theatres globally. In total, it deals with more than 760 000 inpatient admissions per year.

Originally, it had difficulties matching its procurement data with different environments, including business intelligence, enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, and partner systems. But by linking that to MDM, the organisation was able to overcome these difficulties.

This is where an environment that provides for collaboration was key. It implemented the TIBCO EBX data management tool that delivers self-service capabilities to all users so they can manage, govern, and consume all their key data assets on a unified solution.

This agile, model-driven, and multidomain solution has seen Mediclinic manage, govern, and consume shared data assets. The built-in security also links to external security sources to ensure the healthcare provider safeguards the integrity of its data.

This is just one example of how integrating MDM can transform healthcare operations at a time where thinking outside the box becomes mission-critical.

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