The continued digitalization of traditional business sectors is a key part of how the connected society not only evolves but also improves our way of life. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the need to adapt to the brave new digital world, with companies and decision makers eager to align their business optimization strategies with both existing technologies and the right tools for the job.
And while this evolution is often considered to be a matter of not if but when, there is a consensus that companies who integrate cloud platforms and services into their operating workflows will be better placed in terms of scalability, time to market and, importantly, improved customer service. For those who operate in the healthcare and life sciences (HCLS) sector, this integration could literally be the difference between life and death.
Gartner recently published a research note – “Innovation Insight for Digital Health Platform” – which observed that healthcare companies (and, by association, life sciences) were increasingly concerned about the value being delivered by their existing IT investments. These organizations have made “heroic efforts” to adopt new technologies, enable virtual care and real-time patient monitoring, the report said, but the full-blown digital transformation that many required was essentially still a work-in-progress.
Elements such as monolithic electronic health record (EHR) systems and changing customer/patient expectations in terms of access to wellness or care were cited as major challenges to overcome, with the reality being that a single fundamental shift to what the analyst referred to as a “digital health platform” could make a significant difference. In fact, there was an expectation that by 2026, 75 percent of healthcare providers will have reduced their reliance on “EHR-native applications to deliver better experiences and outcomes, and improve efficiencies.”
The key point to remember is that the tools and solutions that can provide healthcare providers and life sciences with access to a digital health platform (DHP) are already here.
According to the authors of the Gartner report, the DHP “leverages modern cloud platforms and applications built on service-oriented principles and architectures” … which is exactly what the AWS Cloud can deliver.
In fact, any company that wants to make data-driven clinical and operational decisions, enable precision medicine, engage in real-time collaboration with other providers or experts and decrease the cost of providing care should give serious consideration to the capabilities that AWS’ dedicated healthcare services provide.
Taking the above into account, let’s take a deeper dive into what you need to know about the health-focused cloud ecosystem that AWS has built and how the platform can increase the pace of innovation, unlock the potential of healthcare data and develop more personalized approaches to therapeutic development and care.
Addressing Cloud Concerns
Arguably, one of the most powerful arguments for migrating to AWS Cloud is that the platform has a significant amount of purpose-built healthcare and life sciences offerings or solutions, many of which fall under its AWS for Health offerings.
As we noted above, there is a defined need for companies to not only revaluate how they operate now, but also to assess how they can make the required improvements to their products or services. For those reasons alone, decision makers have several factors to check off as they move down the path of digital transformation and cloud migration.
These factors can be defined as security and governance, cost and time, workloads, solution availability and cloud maturity.
Some elements require more attention than others, but AWS’ 15+ years of experience in cloud solutions should be a good indication that it has already addressed any potential concerns.
Security and Governance
Let’s get this one out of the way quickly … AWS is what is known as a public cloud. And that has always been something to worry about for companies and end users.
Type the words “top cloud concerns” into a search engine and security will be at the top of the generated results. The simple truth is that migration from an on-premises infrastructure to the cloud will generate a level of discussion among stakeholders, especially in sectors where regulatory governance and compliance play such a huge role.
When you invest in a cloud strategy, you give up a certain level of control over your infrastructure. Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of compute power, database, storage, applications and other IT services through a cloud services platform – which is AWS.
That means that security policies and practices must be rock-solid at both ends of the equation, with AWS assuming the security of the cloud (the protection of the infrastructure that runs all the offered services) and the customer providing the security in the cloud (platform, applications, identity and access management) – this is known as the Shared Responsibility Model, you can find a more in-depth synopsis here.
Where this becomes important is when companies need to update their security policies and practices to conform with the changes to healthcare and life sciences data or regulatory requirements. If you don’t factor in the nature of public cloud itself, then your cloud journey might be over before it’s started.
On a very simple level, a public cloud infrastructure has different consumption patterns. That means governance models need to be established to control how cloud resources are acquired and used.
The heavy regulations that are attached to the healthcare and life sciences sectors make this quite complex. From providers and payers to the requirements of health-focused tech itself, companies need to take all the different compliance layers and regional requirements into account.
These include but are not limited to:
The good news is that AWS has been working with the global healthcare sector for 15 years, so companies that have concerns about security and governance can be confident that the platform is able to support most of the compliance or regulatory requirements you need.
Cost and Time
There is no denying that cost will play a crucial role in overall decision making, but it should not be the single or most important factor in deciding the strategy and approach to cloud platform selection.
The caveat is that there is no apples-to-apples comparison to make when you are looking at both the cost of moving to a cloud-based solution and the time it will take to be up and running. Some companies can be up and running quickly, others will take longer.
What matters is that decision makers will need to lay out a plan for usage patterns (or predicted usage patterns) and determine which of approach best fits the company business model, allocated budget, timeline etc.
Again, AWS has an ever-expanding suite of services that are designed to unlock the potential for health and science data in the cloud – for instance, solutions such as Amazon HealthLake, Amazon Comprehend Medical, and Amazon Transcribe Medical are all being used to help companies innovate faster and provide the digital wellness that the connected society requires – you can read more about Amazon HealthLake in this recent blog post.
An AWS Partner such as Apexon will be able to provide you with a financial breakdown or TCO analysis. This will help determine the difference between short-term (purchase price) and long-term (total cost of ownership) costs of a product or system.
In addition, this analysis will not only lay out the entire migration scenario in an easy-to-understand format, but also highlight why a company can focus more on its products as opposed to building an entire infrastructure and applications.
One question that we constantly get asked is whether it is compulsory for all workloads to be cloud-based.
The simple answer to that is no. AWS has factored in the need for companies to be both global and localized with its edge services (AWS Edge) and AWS Outposts – the latter are native AWS services, infrastructure and operating models that be integrated into any data center, co-location space or on-premises facility.
Healthcare and life sciences companies are more than aware how critical it is for them to meet data management requirements and provide low latency workloads on a local level, and these services tick those boxes.
As mentioned above, regulations which govern the location and storage of data, as well as end-user need for low-latency and availability, can often mean that certain data and workloads need to remain on-premises. Like many other types of organizations, there’s a drive towards modernizing and migrating suitable workloads to the cloud.
AWS’ edge computing services provide infrastructure and software that allow data processing and analysis to occur as close as possible to the point of data origination and use. This includes deploying AWS managed hardware and software to locations outside AWS data centers, and even onto customer-owned devices themselves.
The idea is that AWS for the Edge provides the ability to securely connect and manage a broad range of device types and sizes at scale with a single programming model, reducing costs, and helping developers solve the problems of managing connected devices.
AWS Outposts helps meet on-premises demands by providing the agility and speed of AWS infrastructure and services that many businesses already use in their cloud environments. The service works very much like an AWS Region – a physical location somewhere in the world which contains several physical (and AWS-run) data centers – and it provides an option for organizations that aspire to cloud migration for modernization, but who also need eligibility for HIPAA compliance and GxP manufacturing best practices.
There will come a time when you need to decide whether you want an off-the-shelf solution or one that is more customized to specific needs and requirements.
To make this decision, a company must first nail down which sector of the healthcare and life sciences industry they fall into. For example, are you a healthcare provider or a healthcare payer? Do you specialize in HealthTech is Biopharma more akin to what you do? Is the study of the human genome what gets you up in the morning?
All these sectors are a vital part of the healthcare ecosystem and AWS has numerous readymade solutions that will deliver what is required.
In addition, there are AWS Partners (such as Apexon) who specialize in answering the specific questions and providing access to purpose-built solutions. One way to ensure that you select the right partner is by looking for those who have demonstrated technical expertise and built customer solutions on AWS – a good indicator is if that service provider has achieved AWS Life Sciences Competency status.
An additional resource is the AWS Marketplace, a one-stop shop that has a curated digital catalogue of third-party software, services and data that makes it easy to find, deploy, and manage health solutions on AWS. The marketplace does exactly what it says on the tin, it’s a segment-specific tool that provides guidance and access to the tools that companies need.
Changes to HCLS (Healthcare Life Sciences) priorities over the last few years have shifted, and industry analysts are predicting a renewed surge in cloud adoption amongst enterprises in the near future.
According to a recent industry report, the global healthcare market will be worth $11.9 trillion by the end of 2022. That increased investment means that companies will be looking to digitalize their business strategies to not only capitalize on the obvious market opportunities but also to deliver a streamlined customer experience and overall value proposition.
We also need to consider that Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are now the backbone of the digital health economy. This has made the need for doing cloud right first time even more important.
And while there are a plethora of options available, the prudent decision maker will likely be looking to mirror the cloud experiences of either competitors or other leading healthcare or life sciences innovators – the UK’s National Health Service, Methodist Healthcare, Philips Heathcare (part of the Dutch multinational electronics company) and the Cerner Corporation, for example, have all used AWS to streamline their operations and dedication to patient wellness.
From an AWS standpoint, the healthcare ecosystem that it has built has made it both a global leader and a cloud provider that has all the maturity and experience required. In 2014, the company introduced the Life Science Practice and the dedicated teams that form part of this division constantly collaborate with health organizations to design and deploy solutions that improve patient outcomes.
The average amount of experience that an AWS health team leader has is around 18 years, and this expertise underlines (yet again) the level of healthcare-related cloud maturity. At time of writing, AWS offers more 130 HIPAA-eligible services and certifications, has written more than 200 case studies and can count on 25 Life Sciences and 39 Healthcare Competency Partners.
Cloud Done Right
All of this demonstrated AWS experience and expertise becomes a valuable asset for the healthcare and life sciences industry, even more so when it comes down to a required digital transformation and the culture of innovation that the sector is known for.
What is even more important to understand is that the digitalization of healthcare has been happening for years and AWS solutions cover areas such as clinical solutions, analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, patient experience, medical research and finance or operations. The move to cloud is essentially the next step in an evolving healthcare ecosystem that can benefit from the alignment of the physical and digital worlds.
And while patient wellness and the treatment of disease is the platform on which healthcare and life sciences is built, there is a defined need for companies to take advantage of the digital options that are available. That includes harnessing the data that is generated and integrating tools that improve the quality of patient care across the board.
The potential that the cloud offers is limitless but what matters most is that you choose the right provider and the right partner at the right time. When you take that option, then the concerns can be alleviated and, importantly, allow you to concentrate on making the world a heathier place.
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