Embracing the Cloud-based LIS is the Next Big Move for Clinical Labs
The US healthcare landscape is experiencing a seismic shift towards digital health with clinical laboratories standing at the forefront of the transformation. The question is no longer if labs should prioritize updating their IT infrastructure, but rather, which solutions are best-suited for the future of healthcare, and which labs will succeed in implementing them first.
How Healthcare Fell Behind the Cloud Curve
Most clinical labs still utilize on-premise legacy systems from vendors that have served the industry for decades. This is due, in part, to historically low demand for innovative cloud-based LIS solutions up until recent years. Furthermore, misconceptions about data security risks, poor standardization of data protocols, and a lack of incentives for EHR vendors to coordinate with labs led to a situation where legacy systems and homegrown solutions continued to dominate. While every other industry from education, to entertainment, to financial services moved to the cloud, healthcare lagged far behind.
But finally, we’re seeing a paradigm shift driven by regulatory mandates and massive investments made by industry leaders, which has raised the urgency to phase out outdated systems. This article reveals why the clinical diagnostics industry is now choosing to adopt the cloud, while dispelling the myths and misconceptions, highlighting the advantages of cloud-based systems, and clarifying the nuances between different systems.
US Healthcare’s Priority #1: Modernize Health IT
Healthcare organizations took notice when the 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law in 2016. Enhancements to the program by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology made in 2020 and again in 2023 added more obligations for health IT developers to further the advancement of interoperability, promote health equity, and support the expansion of appropriate access, exchange, and use of electronic health information.
The COVID-19 pandemic also exposed the limitations of outdated laboratory IT infrastructure. On-prem systems simply were not designed for the needs of the modern world of healthcare: accessibility to electronic health information, capability to interface with EHRs using modern data transfer protocols, and integrations with external systems like public health or precision medicine reporting tools.
Aligning with Industry Leaders: The Case for Cloud Interoperability
Signaling that the health IT cloud transformation is a big deal, we witnessed the blockbuster $28b acquisition of Cerner by Oracle in 2021. Meditech announced a collaboration with Google Cloud Platform to bring their EHR to the cloud. Then in 2022, Epic began leveraging Microsoft Azure for EHR cloud migrations for large organizations such as Mount Sinai Health System, the largest academic medical system in New York City. This trend among EHR software giants is a testament to the cloud’s viability and security for healthcare data management.
With the major EHR and EMR systems now fully transitioned to the cloud, it’s inevitable that other healthcare systems are soon to follow. For labs, this means that it’s more crucial than ever to be able to interface with cloud-based systems effectively in order to stay relevant and competitive. On-prem LIS vendors see the writing on the wall as well. It’s why they all have plans to bring cloud-based versions of their software online and are urging their customers to switch over.
Labs failing to comply with Cures Act interoperability requirements will be replaced by more agile players. LIS vendors failing to effectively re-architect their systems to take advantage of the cloud will also be phased out in favor of newer cloud-native solutions. It’s a critical race towards the finish in terms of achieving successful healthcare interoperability.
Debunking Myths about the Cloud – Not Just Someone Else’s Computer
Healthcare’s hesitancy to embrace the cloud stems from long-standing concerns about data security and accessibility. It’s time to move past the misconception that on-premise systems are inherently safer.
- Data Encryption: Cloud providers employ advanced encryption technologies for data at rest and in transit. This ensures that sensitive patient data is protected from unauthorized access, making it a secure environment for healthcare information.
- Regulatory Compliance: Leading cloud service providers adhere to stringent regulatory frameworks like HIPAA. They implement comprehensive security controls and offer features tailored to help healthcare organizations meet their compliance obligations, thereby ensuring that patient data is managed securely and compliant manner.
- Authentication and Identity Management: Cloud platforms offer sophisticated authentication mechanisms and identity management controls. These systems ensure that only authorized personnel can access sensitive data, significantly reducing the risk of data breaches.
- Automated Backups and Redundant Storage: Cloud services include automated data backups and redundant storage solutions. This approach provides a safeguard against data loss due to hardware failures, natural disasters, or human errors. Moreover, the use of distributed data centers enhances data durability and availability.
- Integrity Verification: Regular integrity checks are conducted to ensure that the data stored in the cloud remains unaltered and free from corruption. This is crucial for maintaining the accuracy and reliability of healthcare records.
Modern cloud services include advanced security features and compliance with regulatory standards that are actually more secure for healthcare data storage and management versus legacy systems. A combination of encryption, rigorous authentication, automated backups, and integrity verification provides a comprehensive security framework that addresses the unique needs of the healthcare sector. Dispelling these myths is essential for understanding the potential of cloud technology in revolutionizing healthcare IT.
On-Premise and Cloud-Based Systems Compared
The differences between on-premise and cloud-based LIS are stark:
- On-Premise Systems: Characterized by limited user access, local servers with restricted interfaces, and a heavy reliance on IT staff for maintenance and data security. These systems are prone to data loss, server crashes, and costly downtime.
- Cloud-Based Systems: Offer unlimited user access through web browsers, automated maintenance, multiple data backups for security, and are designed for seamless connectivity with modern interfacing standards like APIs.
The Advantages of Cloud-Based LIS
- Speedy Implementation: Cloud-based systems enable remote deployment, drastically reducing installation and setup time.
- Enhanced Security: Built-in robust security features provide superior data protection compared to on-premise systems.
- Automated Maintenance and Updates: Cloud systems ensure up-to-date features and security patches without the need for manual intervention.
- Integration Flexibility: They allow for easy scalability and compatibility with various healthcare software and equipment, enhancing data exchange and reducing errors.
The Shortcomings of Legacy On-Prem Systems:
- Data Accessibility: Proprietary databases in on-prem systems hinder data accessibility and integration with other systems.
- Overhead Costs: They require significant investment in hardware and dedicated IT staff.
- Security Risks: On-premise systems are vulnerable to security breaches, demanding constant and costly vigilance.
The transition to cloud-native LIS is not just a technological upgrade but a strategic alignment with the broader healthcare industry’s objectives. Embracing cloud technology enables labs to benefit from enhanced interoperability, robust security, and the scalability essential in today’s digital healthcare landscape.
With Dendi, a cloud-native LIS solution, clinical labs can embrace the latest technology advancements that are pivotal to improving healthcare services, ensuring patient data security, and enhancing the quality of care. The future of healthcare is unequivocally in the cloud, and the time to make this critical move is now.