Why cloud is the best medicine for the NHS

Jasmit Sagoo, senior director and head of technology at Veritas Technologies, explains how the NHS can keep up with advancements in technology through the use of the cloud

Jasmit Sagoo

To improve health outcomes and the patient experience, the NHS must go through its own digital transformation.

The NHS was envisioned as a truly-national institution, available to all and free at the point of service.

Rising demand and tightening resources have made this harder to achieve. But technologies like telemedicine and artificial intelligence can make it a reality again.

However, it’s crucial these new technologies are supported by the best-possible infrastructure.

A well-managed, integrated and cloud-based health service will be key in delivering the next-generation services patients expect, improving speed and efficiency while boosting public health outcomes as a whole.

Patients come first

Beyond paving the way for future tech adoption, a centralised, cloud-based infrastructure holds great potential for the NHS.

Data backed up in the cloud is easily retrievable and the danger of data loss, from hardware failure or database fragmentation, is virtually eliminated.

Furthermore, trusts are no longer constrained by the need for physical storage space, allowing for more-affordable archiving solutions.

However, moving your data to the cloud is only the first step. The challenges you face as a clinician or administrator won’t all be solved by simply lifting and shifting.

There must be systems and processes in place for archiving and swift retrieval.

In the end, data in the cloud still has to be carefully managed, classified and connected for its value to be fully realised.

Staff need the right tools and sufficient insight to perform their best work.

A digitised, connected NHS opens the door to greater collaboration, and this is increasingly necessary as patients move around the country

And trusts should seek data management tools that service a range of clouds while providing insight into the entire cloud infrastructure.

Clinicians should have access to tools that allow them to swiftly see what data they have and where it is, no matter what silo or environment it may sit in.

A digitised, connected NHS opens the door to greater collaboration, and this is increasingly necessary as patients move around the country.

When a patient moves home, they are usually assigned a new doctor at a new hospital. Yet this can cause delays if the patient’s medical records aren’t successfully transferred.

When supported in the cloud, however, digital patient documents can be shared instantly.

Perhaps most importantly, data captured in the cloud is far easier to utilise with major consequences for public health.

In an influenza epidemic, for example, doctors and researchers spend long stretches of time studying data spread across hundreds of different hospitals and surgeries.

When all that data sits in a well-managed cloud, however, sophisticated data-mining becomes a reality, improving decision-making and the effectiveness of treatment.

Secure data is healthy data

To survive and thrive, NHS data must be decompartmentalised and raised to the cloud. Yet the safety of this data must not be lost in the process.

In recent years, cyber attacks such as 2017’s NotPetya have thrown the power and vulnerability of healthcare data into sharp relief.

When data sits in a well-managed cloud, sophisticated data-mining becomes a reality, improving decision-making and the effectiveness of treatment

And, as these attacks increase in frequency, care providers mustn’t take the cloud’s resilience for granted.

Recent research shows that 69% t of companies mistakenly believe final responsibility for data protection lies with their cloud provider. Yet most contracts contain no such clause.

It’s up to hospital trusts to ensure their data is well organised, compliant, and protected.

This is not an argument against the cloud.

Unlike on-premise solutions, it has several additional layers of security and the most-up-to-date security policies, with many redundancy mechanisms for data protection.

Servers are housed far from employees and are heavily guarded, with encrypted data that’s very difficult to hack.

A ransomware attack could take down your entire local network, but should leave your cloud data untouched.

The NHS is a treasured institution, but it can’t afford to stand still.

The power and security of the cloud is there for the taking, but it needs structure, sound management, and security to realise its full potential.

The power and security of the cloud is there for the taking, but it needs structure, sound management, and security to realise its full potential

To keep up with patient demands, the declining health of the population and the health crises of the future, the NHS needs to take to the cloud and adopt a coherent data management strategy within it.