Exploring the evolving role of cloud technology in healthcare

HPP partnered with experts to develop an accessible report outlining what cloud technology is and its potential to enable transformation across health systems.

Context

A wealth of health-related data exists around every person and across our societies. Securely pooling, analysing and understanding this information requires computational power, cybersecurity and speed far beyond ordinary computers.

Health systems are experiencing unprecedented challenges; addressing them requires an approach that is both comprehensive and data driven. At the same time, both care delivery and health-related research are more data-intensive and collaborative than ever. Cloud technology (’the cloud’, IT infrastructure delivered as a scalable service) can enable a more data-driven and person-centred health sector.

Cloud technology is already trusted in our lives when we use email, social media or online banking. But when it comes to healthcare, most people know very little about this technology’s role. Yet so much of what needs to be achieved when we think of efficient and person-centred healthcare – including electronic health records, genomic sequencing, tailored treatments and preventive approaches that address inequity – cannot be done without the advanced computing of the cloud.

Cloud technology can enable transformative change across health systems, yet its adoption has been slower than in other sectors. There are several barriers to adoption, including a general lack of knowledge and understanding of how the cloud works. People also rightly wish to ensure that their health data are handled with caution and due diligence. Security, privacy and other standards, such as compliance, can and should be addressed using a collaborative model of shared responsibility between cloud service providers and users.

Given the breadth of its current and possible applications, it is also vital that understanding cloud technology does not remain within the confines of IT departments; all stakeholders, including patients, must be engaged in its use to optimise the benefits for individual and population health.

Project resources

What we’ve achieved

HPP partnered with the European Institute for Innovation through Health Data (i-HD) and worked with expert stakeholders to develop a balanced and accessible narrative on what cloud technology is and how it can be used safely and effectively as an enabler of broader health system goals. The resulting policy report positions the cloud within the context of current health policy priorities, including investment in innovation, health system sustainability, efficiency and resilience, health equity and person-centred care. It advances a collaborative model, with patients at the centre, to ensure cloud technology can fulfil its potential as an enabler of data-driven health systems.

The report was launched on 8 June 2023. HPP Managing Director Suzanne Wait presented the report during a panel discussion at the HIMSS23 European Health Conference & Exhibition on the importance of building trust among patient communities and the public for uses of digitised health data.

Key partners and stakeholders

This report was written by Catherine H. Whicher and Suzanne Wait at HPP, with the support of Dipak Kalra and Nathan Lea from i‑HD. We would like to thank the following contributors for their insights:

  • Prof. Dr Dr Torsten Haferlach, Munich Leukemia Laboratory
  • Prof. Mark Lawler, Queen’s University Belfast
  • Prof. Liesbet M. Peeters, Hasselt University, MS Data Alliance
  • Gözde Susuzlu Briggs, ‘Data Saves Lives’, European Patients’ Forum
  • Prof. Pascal Verdonck, Ghent University, Belgian & European Association of Hospital Managers

We are also grateful to colleagues from Amazon Web Services who shared their experience on the use of cloud technology in health settings.

Project funding

This report was developed by HPP with support and funding from Amazon Web Services (AWS). HPP led the research and drafting, with input from i-HD and insights received from expert contributors. Other than HPP and i-HD, none of the contributors to the report were remunerated for their time. HPP held editorial control over the final content.

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