Healthcare moves forward in the cloud

How global healthcare and life sciences organizations can derive benefits working with AWS Partners on cloud projects

Sponsored Feature Hippocrates—credited for that eponymous oath that has guided many medical professionals—is also quoted as saying, "Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity."

The opportunity that forward-looking healthcare and life sciences (HCLS) organizations have today is digital transformation.

In the Amazon Web Services (AWS) ebook, Ushering in the Future of Health, a collection of customer case studies illustrates how accelerating digital transformation can help healthcare organizations to more easily discover, assess, and deploy cloud solutions that support better patient outcomes and achieve business goals. These initiatives can deliver multiple benefits, such as enhanced innovation, improved collaboration, and greater data-driven clinical and operational decisions, while decreasing costs.

The scale of this digital transformation opportunity for the sector is huge: the global healthcare IT market is predicted to be worth an eye-watering $74.5 billion by 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.8 percent in the meantime, according to a recent Markets and Markets report. Separate research conducted by Gartner concludes that healthcare providers emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic with a "renewed focus on digital transformation." Adoption of cloud services, artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), and digital workplace technologies are all identified by the Gartner study as key healthcare technology priorities.

Supplementing internal infrastructure and expertise

However, although the opportunities and benefits afforded by digital transformation initiatives are broadly understood, many HCLS organizations don't have the internal resources to navigate potentially complex digital and cloud migration programs. So much so that issues around managing costs and the lack of internal infrastructure and staff expertise can act as significant roadblocks, preventing implementations that can deliver improved patient and clinical services faster and more economically. And additional pressure is placed on HCLS organizations due to the importance of ensuring new digital services are reliable, secure, and comply with strict industry regulation around data compliance and privacy.

Expert solution providers, including AWS and AWS Partners, deliver purpose-built health services and solutions that take full advantage of all the benefits of the cloud. The idea is that HCLS organizations are able to undertake rapid deployment of trusted and cost-effective AWS products to help unlock the full value of health and patient data and develop more effective, personalized approaches to therapeutic development and care.

The clinical and operational benefits of using these cloud solutions can be profound, as existing deployments at various HCLS organizations around the world have already demonstrated.

The path to improved treatments and patient outcomes

Hafod, for example, is a Wales-based, not-for-profit organization that delivers in-home care for vulnerable and older individuals. It recognized the potential for new technology to improve social interaction and alleviate loneliness among the population it serves, so it worked with Accenture and Swansea University to develop HomeCare, which complements real-world care with personalized digital services.

Using an Amazon Echo Show Device, HomeCare can help participants maintain daily routines such as sending reminders to take medicines. The programme can also help with signing up for appointments or events and manage deliveries of food or other items. Behavioral data capture and machine learning (ML) algorithms can even help HomeCare monitor participants' health and detect changes in routines, like a sudden decrease in activity, and prompt caretakers to check on residents. Built using Alexa Skills Kit for Amazon Echo Show Device, HomeCare is advancing responsive home care without compromising on patient privacy.

Elsewhere an innovative project undertaken by the University Hospital Bonn and AWS Partner Capgemini developed an AI system to help scientists eliminate onchocerciasis. This parasitic infection, also known as river blindness, can cause permanent loss of sight. Although treatments are available, they can be logistically challenging to implement.

To help speed the development of new treatments, Capgemini set out to automate what had previously been a manual research process that depended on a small number of trained specialists analyzing large volumes of samples. Working with Amazon SageMaker, Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), and other AWS products, Capgemini created an AI model that generated "close to human-level performance," or 90 percent accuracy, when analyzing tissue samples provided by the Institute of Medical Microbiology at University Hospital Bonn. The system could potentially significantly speed up the research process, reduce time-to-market for future treatments, and help more people before the disease advances.

Another notable and innovative use of cloud technology in the healthcare sector has been achieved by Thermo Fisher Scientific, which serves the global scientific community through a combination of innovative technologies, purchasing convenience, and pharmaceutical services. The company has a long history in the scientific community and became even more widely known since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, first by accelerating the delivery of testing kits and more recently through its ultra-low temperature freezers that allow vaccines to be shipped and stored safely.

To turn the huge volumes of data that Thermo Fisher's refrigerators generate into actionable insights, the company enlisted the expertise of AWS Partner Cognizant. The teams built Thermo Fisher Connect, using Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to facilitate the information sharing required to drive dynamic reporting and AI/ML. The system links Internet of Things (IoT) data from Thermo Fisher equipment with advanced analytics tools. It continuously monitors remote devices and optimizes conditions for scientific samples and products, including irreplaceable genetic materials and temperature-sensitive vaccines. This technology, built on AWS, not only helps avoid sample, material, and data loss but also improves mean time to repair when equipment is down and time is of the essence.

Pandemic-inspired HCLS innovation

The potential of cloud computing technology became especially apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, certainly in the case of many US hospitals that were unable to support enough intensive care unit beds during surges of patient demand. In response, the federal government funded the U.S. Army Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) to find a way to help relieve and reinforce healthcare providers during any future emergencies.

TATRC selected experts including Deloitte Consulting LLP to build a HIPAA-compliant, cloud-based, standalone health information system, known as National Emergency Tele-Critical Care Network (NETCCN, pronounced "Netsin"). The resulting application enables physicians to consult at virtually any bedside via audio/video calls or chats. Built on cloud-native AWS products, it can be downloaded onto most smartphones, where medical professionals can access 24/7 virtual assistance from a network of vetted, licensed clinicians.

So far, the NETCCN system has been successfully deployed in Guam, Puerto Rico, Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. After initial success in supporting COVID-19 care, NETCCN will be developed further to enhance military medics' capabilities in austere facilities and natural disaster sites, where patient transport may be out of the question.

Advanced cloud services also underpin a transformational initiative for Johnson & Johnson (J&J), which develops and sells medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and consumer packaged goods in more than 175 countries. Improving visibility and preventing disruption across its international operations and supply chains can be challenging, as J&J's highly connected and complex global enterprise resource planning (ERP) system features thousands of integrations with more than two petabytes of data spanning more than 4,000 servers. This led J&J to work with AWS Partner IBM to develop a solution to provide critical insights into what is happening across its supply chains.

To help team members conduct root cause analysis to identify the source of any outage or disruption, IBM leveraged various tools to aggregate relevant statistical data into a common data storage location. AI/ML algorithms have been developed to trace and present results through a dynamic visualization. And all of this is done in a scalable manner within the production environment, allowing J&J to benefit from enhanced supply chain visibility, reliability, and predictability.

It is evident that digital transformation programs leveraging the power of the cloud have the potential to deliver benefits across the global healthcare and life sciences sectors. And it is equally evident that such initiatives are rapidly gaining traction and momentum, helping to make healthcare access, diagnosis, research, and clinical delivery better, faster, and more cost-effective. And ultimately the cloud is helping to drive better outcomes for patients.

Sponsored by AWS.

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