The future of healthcare lies in the clouds

The healthcare industry is rapidly adopting the ‘on-demand’ software-as-a-service model in order to maintain efficiency and reduce costs.

When thinking of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), the most common things that come to mind are apps and cloud providers.

In recent years, the growth of cloud computing, advancements in mobile technology and virtualisation – as well as more applications being hosted online – have led many modern industries to move away from purchasing software outright.

Interestingly, it’s the healthcare industry that has been rapidly adopting this ‘on-demand’ software model. Following the introduction of the Hospital Capital Budgets Act, hospitals and healthcare providers are increasingly being asked to find ever more efficient ways to allocate their budget for all types of traditional capital expenditure.

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The rise of connected devices, pay per use models and innovative cloud delivered services is providing new ways for healthcare providers to continue and in fact expand service levels without necessarily expanding their capital budgets.

Historically, healthcare organisations have kept their IT in-house due to concerns that using the cloud will compromise security, or cause issues with compliance, functionality and implementation.

However, this has shifted thanks to the promise of increased efficiency and cost reduction. Peak 10, a US based IT infrastructure business, revealed that since 2014 the use of SaaS in healthcare organisations increased by a third.

Medical technology company The Stryker Corporation has already made this move, providing a service based model in order to meet the demands of today’s hospitals and surgeons in the face of shrinking capital expense budgets. But how exactly can a SaaS model support the healthcare industry?

Treating healthcare’s digital challenges

An important benefit of SaaS is that it gives healthcare organisations control over how and when they use the software. For example, a hospital may own a highly specialised medical device which is only used a few times a year.

While it’s essential they have the device, it makes little sense to pay an annual licence fee to access its software. Instead, paying to access the software on a case-by-case basis saves on costs.

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This also applies to seasonal usage – so while a hospital may have several x-ray machines, they might only need to use them all during winter, when ice causes an increase in the number of broken bones.

Once vendors begin designing machines with SaaS in mind, there will be further benefits for the healthcare industry. It would be possible for a hospital to purchase a device, such as a CT scanner, which has multiple functions for scanning different body parts, and opt to only pay to access the functions they need at that time.

Should they need to use another of the device’s functions, the hospital can switch it on. This reduces the amount of hardware investment required, cutting costs and minimising the money spent on upgrading hardware.

Not only this, but a SaaS model would also allow a hospital to trial or activate new software and features instantly, dramatically reducing the time it takes for them to determine the best solution for their needs. This provides them with not only financial benefits, but means that patients always have access to the solutions they require on demand.

SaaS and cyber security

A SaaS model doesn’t only support a hospital with its budgeting, but also its cybersecurity. The recent WannaCry hack made it clear that healthcare institutions are frequent, and often easy, targets. Notably, the UK’s National Health Service was victim of one of the top five biggest breaches in the first half of 2017, with over 26 million compromised records.

If a hospital has several devices that are internet-enabled but rarely used, there’s a chance that they may have out of date security solutions, as they may not be patched properly.

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This opens the organisation up to external threats. With a SaaS model, the vendor would be able to ensure a device is updated every time it is used, dramatically reducing the threats posed by hackers.

Not only this, but the healthcare industry must comply with strict data protection legislation, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), given the sensitive nature of the data it stores.

Thankfully, the majority of software vendors are already compliant with these legislations, and using their SaaS solutions means that the devices running them are too. This reduces the amount of work that the organisation must undertake to ensure it conforms with the varying industry legislations.

>See also: Healthcare efficiency through technology

SaaS is now a major part of the successful digitisation of healthcare. With increasingly tight budgets, hospitals need to ensure that they are exploring the solutions which streamline their costs, particularly in reducing hardware investment.

Importantly, software can help cut these outgoings by ensuring services only cost when they are needed, rather than a subscription model with regular charges or a large upfront cost. By adopting SaaS, the healthcare industry will ensure it is not only efficient and cost effective, but also secure and agile in the future.


Sourced by Jamie Longmuir, regional director, Software Monetisation, Gemalto

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...