The COVID-19 pandemic has positioned cloud technologies center stage for many organizations — particularly those in the healthcare industry.
Healthcare providers and researchers, as well as private sector companies and government entities, are racing to find diagnostics tests, treatments, and cures for the deadly virus. That’s driving the need for collaboration and communication platforms and portals for safely exchanging information. The cloud is enabling these tools.
There’s also much COVID-19-related data being gathered, stored, processed, and shared. As a result, demand continues to grow for robust data analytics and storage capabilities. Cloud technologies can meet that demand as well.
To reduce physical meetings between patients and providers that put both at risk for infection, more healthcare systems are deploying telehealth services. Their usage is likely to grow as the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) relax privacy regulations and payment policies. The cloud makes these services more cost-effective and helps ensure security, uptime, performance, and availability.
While these are just a few examples of the role cloud technologies are playing amidst the COVID-19 crisis, they demonstrate how the cloud can benefit — and even transform — the healthcare industry.
AWS Services for Healthcare
At ClearScale, we continue to see firsthand how cloud services, especially those from AWS, can dramatically impact many aspects of the healthcare and research continuums. The following are just some of the areas where AWS resources can benefit the healthcare industry and, in many cases, play essential roles in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Telehealth Delivery
AWS offers numerous services that can be used to build out telehealth solutions and support video-hosting platforms. That includes Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, a secure, isolated cloud infrastructure; Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for scalable object storage of images, archive data, and security logs; and Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL, a relational database engine that can be used to build HIPAA-compliant apps and store healthcare-related information.
Chime is an AWS communication service that enables customers to meet, chat, and make audio and video business calls through a single unified application. Also available as an SDK, it can be used by independent software vendors who are creating telemedicine apps but don’t want to build their video and telephone solution.
- Data Collection, Storage, Processing and Analysis
AWS Data Exchange makes it easy for researchers to find, subscribe to, and use third-party data in the cloud. That includes data from providers such as Enigma, which provides global coronavirus data from Johns Hopkins University.
Once subscribed to a data product, the AWS Data Exchange API can be employed to load data directly into Amazon S3, a cost-effective object storage service. Data can then be analyzed using a wide range of AWS analytics and machine learning services, such as Amazon Athena and Amazon Redshift.
AWS Lake Formation can be used to automate many of the crucial manual steps in building a data lake for collecting COVID-19 and other healthcare data, reducing build time from months to days. Amazon SageMaker can help extract insights from that data, while Amazon QuickSight can provide visualizations to present it and share insights.
Yet another beneficial tool is Amazon Comprehend Medical, a HIPAA-eligible service that uses deep learning to identify and extract relevant information from medical text. Access to this data is valuable for enabling a number of use cases, including patient case management, clinical research, and medical billing and healthcare revenue cycle management.
Amazon Kendra is a highly accurate, easy-to-use enterprise search service powered by machine learning that enables researchers to use powerful natural language search capabilities so they can more easily find the information they need within the vast amount of information spread across health systems, biotech and pharma companies, and other entities.
- Healthcare System Call Center Efficiencies
The web chatbots and voice conversational agents in AWS’s contact center solution, Amazon Connect, can help manage high volume inbound calls to call centers and supplement staff to help triage patients. AWS even provides instructions for deploying chatbots using COVID-19 protocols.
Contact Lens for Amazon Connect expands Amazon Connect’s capabilities by integrating ML analytics that enables understanding the sentiment, trends, and compliance of customer conversations. That, in turn, allows healthcare organizations to identify important customer feedback and use it to improve customer experience.
- Patient Engagement
Speech-enabled products can help engage patients in managing their health by allowing them to ask questions and receive information about their medication, diagnoses, and medical conditions. AWS offers numerous tools to create these products, including Amazon Polly. The service turns text into lifelike speech to help create apps that talk. Another is Amazon Lex, which converts speech to text and then uses natural language understanding (NLU) to recognize the intent of the text. Apps can be built with highly engaging user experiences and lifelike conversational interactions.
- Reduce Clinician Burden
Amazon Transcribe Medical is an ML-powered voice-to-text service that makes it easier to create accurate transcriptions from medical consultations between patients and physicians. It can help reduce the time clinicians spend filling out forms, as well as improve medical coding accuracy.
- Remote Work and Collaboration
To facilitate research collaboration, as well as enable employees to work from remote locations in a secure and compliant manner — particularly during the COVID-19 crisis, AWS offers its fully managed AWS End User Computing cloud desktop and application streaming solutions. Among them are Amazon AppStream, a fully managed streaming service; Amazon WorkSpaces, a secure managed Desktop as a Service solution; and Amazon Lightsail. Easy-to-use cloud platform, available on a cost-effective monthly plan, that provides everything needed to build an application or website.
From Machine Learning to Quantum Computing
The following are some of the newer AWS services that can benefit numerous areas in research and healthcare delivery as well.
AWS Outposts is a fully managed service that extends AWS infrastructure, AWS services, APIs, and tools to virtually any data center, co-location space, or on-premises facility. It can be used to easily apply analytics and ML services to health management systems that must stay on-premise due to low latency processing of patient health information (PHI) requirements.
Amazon Braket is a fully managed service that allows scientists, researchers, and developers to begin experimenting with computers from multiple quantum hardware providers in a single place. Braket lets users explore, evaluate, and experiment with quantum computing hardware to gain in-house experience as they plan for the future. Quantum computing has the potential to impact many areas of healthcare, as well as in life sciences and genomics. These advancements will likely be realized through continued quantum computing research and experimentation conducted by a collaborative of educational institutions, enterprises, and governments.
AWS Nitro Enclaves enables customers to create isolated compute environments to protect further and securely process highly sensitive data such as personally identifiable information (PII) in healthcare, biopharma, and genomics.
AQUA for Amazon Redshift is a distributed and hardware-accelerated cache that allows Redshift to run up to 10 times faster than any other cloud data warehouse, reducing data management challenges and processing bottlenecks that are frequently encountered in personalized healthcare initiatives, and in compute-intensive and data-intensive biomedical workloads.
ClearScale on the Cutting Edge
Unfortunately, leveraging the cloud’s capabilities and AWS’ wide range of services — whether to combat a global pandemic or to increase productivity and cost efficiencies — isn’t necessarily easy.
That’s why many organizations in healthcare and related industries choose to work with ClearScale. As an AWS Premier Consulting Partner with nine competencies across healthcare, DevOps, data and analytics, IoT, and other areas, we use our deep-seated cloud expertise to build solutions that meet the needs of clients who are changing the healthcare industry.
For example, ClearScale worked with a pharmaceutical company to create an optimized, scalable infrastructure and data pipelines to accelerate its research. In addition to satisfying HIPAA requirements for security and privacy, the solution enables the company to conduct the analysis portion of its research much faster. Its researchers, data analysts, and IT team no longer have to devote time to tedious processes and can instead focus on more strategic endeavors. That all translates to quicker research findings — and faster time-to-market for potential treatments.
Working with another company, ClearScale developed an application that uses artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and deep learning (DL) to translate verbal medical notes to the text and increase the efficiency and accuracy of the medical coding process. The HIPAA -compliant app also works on four different operating systems while using a single code base, in essence, delivering four apps for the price of one.
For yet another organization, ClearScale designed a web portal app to manage its diagnostics and monitoring tool for use by patients in their homes. The solution gathers and analyzes patient data, displays results to physicians for diagnosis, and presents a report to physicians and patients for review. ClearScale also developed a highly scalable, redundant, and secure infrastructure for running the app.
You’ll find more information about ClearScale’s work with clients in the healthcare industry here.
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