The healthcare industry is gradually overcoming its fears and is—finally—about to get high on the cloud.
The array of technologies commonly known as cloud computing are coming into their own in healthcare as a secure, capable and cost-effective means to provision computer hardware, and software and services, despite persistent and still lingering concerns about privacy, security and reliability.
One newer user who's happy she jumped to the cloud is Terri Kendrick, director of purchasing at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare system in Glendale, Wis. Three of its 11 hospitals are up and running on a cloud-based, medical/surgical ordering system from McKesson Corp. in a rollout that began in November and should wrap up by October, she says.
“Security has always been an issue,” Kendrick says, so the plan to switch to a cloud-based system was scrutinized. “We talked to our IS department about the encrypting and password protection and we addressed everybody's concerns.”
While Wheaton's departing in-house ordering system has 60,000 items, the new cloud-based system has 1.3 million and is growing, Kendrick says, including “300,000 items with our purchase history, pricing and formularies.” The cloud enables buyers to expand their formularies and sellers to grow their product catalogs more quickly and easily.
“If you're in the OR, you've gone in and built a list of your favorites, because you don't want to access 1.3 million” records, Kendrick says. “So you just select an item and drop it into your shopping cart and it's done.” The new system also features onboard decision support. “If it's something that's not on contract, it will flag you, and because it has artificial intelligence behind it, it will flag you to an item that is on contract.”
For managers, “there is a dashboard that can show that this is a missed opportunity or somebody is doing a bang-up job.”
Kendrick says it's too early to talk about return on investment in the technology, but “we're looking to see where those opportunities are.” Todd Tabel, vice president of McKesson's supply chain solutions unit, says the software runs in a cloud hosted by Amazon. The online retailer is also a major provider of cloud services. For McKesson today, Tabel says, “well under 10%” of its supply chain software is cloud-based, but “it's come far enough in terms of adoption, you'll see quicker uptake in three to five years.”