The healthcare sector has demonstrated immense resilience in this pandemic. Frontliners have fought the virus relentlessly, and thousands of additional beds were made available in buildings converted to care facilities.

Technologies like data analytics and the cloud have played an enabling role in this pivot. It’s helped hospitals predict and manage logistical demands and scale systems in a matter of weeks, if not days.

We look at how these technologies have helped hospitals pivot to fight the virus, and the opportunities for data and the cloud to transform healthcare beyond the pandemic.

Managing logistical challenges

In the face of the pandemic, hospitals have to juggle logistics such as personal protective equipment as patient loads increase.

The National Centre for Infectious Diseases in Singapore used AI to ensure workforce efficiency amidst a rise in Covid cases. AI was able to predict patient arrival and departure, and allocate staff to where they are most needed.

Singapore’s Tan Tock Seng Hospital automated the allocation of beds. The programme was coded to give beds to those who needed it most, according to the medical information available. Only two to three staff are now required to monitor over 2,000 beds.

The cloud can also help hospitals to run what-if simulations of particular scenarios without relying on physical hardware. Realistic simulations were created by analysing population data like the number of people with particular medical histories, and different ages and genders.

We worked with the Rush University Medical Centre in Illinois to incorporate data analysis in order to manage an influx of Covid-19 cases. The centre was able to reduce data processing time from days down to 15 minutes.

Implementing the Cloudera data platform enabled Rush University healthcare workers to speed up the time taken for diagnosis. It also helped to predict the number of cases that would need to be treated and ensure they prepared sufficient resources.

Scaling healthcare systems

Fifty-one per cent of healthcare organisations have increased their use of the hybrid cloud, which stores data in a combination of cloud and on-premise platforms, according to the Enterprise Cloud Index Report by cloud computing company Nutanix.

This is crucial as the cloud provides the agility required to scale healthcare systems and reduce the time taken to provision IT infrastructure. Clinicians have immediate access to resources to run machine learning models and simulations, without having to go through lengthy procurement processes.

We’ve worked with the National Children’s Hospital in the USA to transform legacy systems that could not store patients’ vitals data for more than three days. Longer-term data storage would enable the hospital to expand data collection to include environmental factors such as ambient light, noise, and air quality.

After adopting a cloud strategy, they were able to expand the storage of data and improve the quality of care and patient outcomes of infants in the neonatal intensive care units. The hospital could also analyse 20 years’ worth of air quality data from the Environmental Protection Agency and correlate it to their own research to understand potential triggers of asthma.

Managing the security dilemma

Moving to the cloud often poses a huge security dilemma. Fifty-eight per cent of healthcare providers surveyed described security as a major challenge in cloud adoption. Some organisations are concerned about exposing sensitive data on the cloud, but keeping applications on-premise would also cause hospitals to miss out on the agility cloud provides.

Understanding your data better will help to assess its sensitivity. Once data is classified according to sensitivity levels, clinicians can decide to store anonymised, non-sensitive data in the cloud, and classified data on-premise in accordance with government regulations.

Cloudera has worked with the U.S. Census Bureau to securely and efficiently analyse data from the 2020 census. Data was encrypted at rest and in motion, enabling data sharing and compliance to security and data governance policies.

The public sector must be ready to adapt to future challenges. Cloudera’s work with the healthcare sector allows for flexibility when it comes to data and the cloud, improving the services provided for Singaporean citizens.

This article is by Remus Lim, Regional Sales Director for ASEAN & India, Cloudera.