As cloud computing becomes more ubiquitous, its application in solutions for delivering, billing, and paying for healthcare promises to be a game-changer. Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—storage, databases, servers and software, to name a few—over the Internet, or what’s commonly referred to as “the cloud.” And, as patients take an ever-bigger role in their own healthcare coverage and treatment, cloud computing will enable them to make smarter decisions by making it easier to give them more complete access to relevant information.
The cloud can also enable dramatic process improvements, especially for payers and providers. As the healthcare industry continues to transform, these two stakeholders are continually looking for ways to improve efficiency and flexibility, make better decisions, and cut through the clutter that complicates and delays payments. Change Healthcare, a leading healthcare IT company, works with both insurance companies and health systems including doctors, as well as patients, to help accomplish these goals. The company views cloud computing as a key catalyst in making these improvements happen at scale. To do so, it has relationships with several major technology players such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and others to leverage the latest in cloud technology, including virtualization and big data constructs that live on top of the cloud—together—enabling efficient management of large data sets and large elements of data.
“These relationships are about providing best-in-class services to support artificial intelligence and analytics that enable better use of data,” says John DeMastri, senior vice president of analytics and platforms for Change Healthcare. “As we put these technologies to work, we can help payers improve payment efficiencies and we can help providers gain access to better, more accurate information about their patients. Change Healthcare is in a trusted position because of all the information that flows through our systems, so we have to add value each step of the way, and the cloud gives us the ability to do so.”
For example, in November 2017, the company announced a strategic relationship with Google Cloud that leverages both companies’ strengths to come up with innovative solutions for the industry. Change Healthcare will combine its expertise in medical imaging with Google Cloud’s capabilities in artificial intelligence, analytics, and infrastructure. The goal: to enable real-time collaboration among providers while putting a cloud-based imaging data infrastructure in place with the potential to be more cost-effective and reliable than other solutions available today.
A cloud environment makes it easier and less expensive to house and share the large libraries of medical images that exist in healthcare,” explains Tomer Levy, VP strategic portfolio, Change Healthcare. “Other than significant cost savings, centralizing the data in a cloud environment enables sharing of information (rather than exchanging), but more importantly, it allows caregivers to collaborate to make better decisions. In addition, the nature of the cloud is such that organizations can more easily apply software updates on a continual basis, which in turn helps mitigate cybersecurity risk, an increasingly common concern in healthcare.”
DeMastri notes that medical images are just one example where easy, flexible access to patient information can help improve both cost and quality. Whether it’s in the office or from a tablet, the cloud gives providers a more transparent—yet still secure—view into a patient’s medical history, no matter where or when that care has taken place. “Having a holistic view of your care and any specialists you may have seen enables more collaborative care by eliminating geographic or system boundaries that have existed for years,” he says.
For payers, the cloud is the enabling mechanism for better insight into payments, cash flow, and revenue cycle management, explains DeMastri. It can help insurance companies review claims for best practices and can enable them to alert providers to potential issues with billing and treatment costs that could slow down payments. As healthcare in the U.S. moves more broadly to value-based care, the role of cloud computing will become even more important. Under value-based care, quality and patient outcomes become a bigger part of the equation, so the ability to bring large volumes of information together instantly and accurately is essential—and it starts largely with the capabilities enabled by cloud computing.