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.