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Cloud Computing and Meaningful Use…Making the Connections

CT scanner

Cloud can be the optimal platform to help support those aspects of your infrastructre designated for "meaningful use" where compliance is concerned

According to this Health Market Science report “The meaningful use initiative may migrate healthcare services to cloud computing.”  While there are many in the healthcare vertical that deny that this is the case, the reality is that, as organizations move to compliance, the more they may need to, or have to, leverage cloud computing.

New federal regulations published on April 7 are prompting accountable care organizations (ACOs) everywhere to look for information technology solutions. This movement toward efficient computing is part of a federal mandate that requires healthcare providers to optimize their use of new technologies such as electronic health records (EHR) in order to drive down costs. The overarching doctrine has been labeled as the meaningful use clause of the Affordable Care Act, and now many medical organizations are beginning to implement changes to meet the standards.”

The report goes on to state that the storage of pertinent medical records on cloud-based platforms is indeed growing in popularity. “The technology would allow data to be stored off-site, which could ultimately be a cost-effective way to meet the meaningful use doctrine, since ACOs would not have to devote as many resources to information storage.”

The connection between cloud computing and meaningful use is not that difficult to make.  For example, the secure externalization of patient data via user-defined portals in support of meaningful use is one direct use case of cloud technology.  Patient portals that are built to meet Meaningful Use Selections 170.304(h) and 170.306(d) provide patients with the ability to access clinical summaries, as well as health information.  If the portals are well built, they facilitate communications with patients and doctors using a common set of data, and they put the data into a more understandable context for the doctor. 

There are even more reasons to consider using cloud computing when looking to comply with meaningful use, such as money.  The use of cloud-based platforms could allow some organizations to take advantage of the HITECH incentive program.  This program awards grants to ACOs that can demonstrate compliance with meaningful use.  “According to Health News Digest, the cloud could allow centers to only pay for the computing power they need in everyday operations, rather than devote needless energy to house electronic data that may not always be in use.”  

However, there are other, more indirect applications for cloud computing, when considering meaningful use.  These will become more apparent as we continue to leverage cloud computing within the healthcare vertical.  For instance, cloud computing allows smaller medical practices to qualify for the federal funds.  This is due to the fact that a facility that has implemented a cloud system can grow their compute resources as needed, which is due to the elastic nature of cloud computing.

Not sure this is next week kind of stuff.  However, as healthcare organizations continue to drive to meet ever increasing regulations, the use of cloud computing is a foregone conclusion.  

By David Linthicum

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