Helping healthcare companies improve patient outcomes with Google Cloud

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When it comes to cloud services, healthcare businesses are ahead of the curve by a small margin, with 81 percent of health sector executives reporting that their cloud transformations are now underway, compared to 78 percent of all businesses, according to PwC’s 2023 Business Cloud survey.

Why has healthcare taken to cloud services so earnestly? The answer can be found in two key areas that providers, payors and pharmacy benefit managers all greatly value — security features and the analytics capabilities.

Securing healthcare data in the cloud

For healthcare providers, security has long been an absolute must, as protecting patient medical records fall under some of the most stringent laws in the world. Patient data must be treated with the utmost confidentiality and care at all times.

Security has been baked into the Google Cloud platform since it was first envisioned. To guard against external security threats, Google Cloud provides a variety of tools built to provide continuous detection and continuous response (CD/CR), and they’re designed to enable real-time data protection. These tools, collectively known as Chronicle Security Operations, combine internal and external data to provide users with a prioritized list of potential threats which are presented on clear and concise dashboards. Adopters of these tools are provided with potential preventive and reactive responses to threats. For healthcare customers, this has immense value in facilitating private consumer data as safe as possible. 

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Google Cloud is also a key developer of advanced security concepts, including least privilege access and zero trust. Least privilege access is a principle that dictates that technology users should have the ability to fulfill only their job responsibilities and nothing more, which can limit the risk of damage due to a compromised user account. Zero trust is an emerging concept that holds that interaction between a user and a technology system — or between two systems — should begin with verification that the user and system have the appropriate privileges to perform the requested action. Both of these concepts are becoming critical tools for securing healthcare data against attacks.

In addition to these features, PwC has leveraged Google Cloud to automate cloud security, align infrastructure to applications, help mitigate risk and automate migration of workloads. This allows healthcare companies to reduce the time needed to implement new cloud technologies and enables healthcare cloud deployments that are HIPAA- and HiTrust-compliant.

Using analytics to improve healthcare operations

Another key cloud feature is the advanced analytics tools that it enables, including machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. These capabilities are giving healthcare companies newfound abilities to draw additional insights from their data, such as providing an extra set of AI-powered eyes when evaluating medical scans, which can help to spot problems that doctors miss. The National Cancer Institute, for example, estimates that about 20 percent of breast cancers fail to be detected during mammograms. Another way these AI tools can assist healthcare operations is when it comes to back-office operations. Payors and providers can manage and make sense of everything from clinical data to insurance claims.

Google Cloud offers a single, united platform for AI operations, which is helping healthcare providers with some of their thorniest issues.

Chief among them, medical records, claims data, public health information and other data like wearable medical information all remain disconnected and scattered among a variety of incompatible sources. For the average patient, their personal medical record picture is decidedly opaque.

To help address these challenges, Google Cloud can provide an array of data management, machine learning and AI services, all consolidated in a single end-to-end platform. Benefits of these services allow for easier creation, ingestion and searching of clinical and medical imaging data, while other tools can help providers manage and protect patient data. Once patient data has been consolidated, Google Cloud users have access to tools for advanced analytics to make machine learning possible. All of these solutions have been certified as HIPAA- and HiTrust-compliant.

PwC has made significant investments to build capabilities on top of Google Cloud’s healthcare services, which include the ability to help enhance payor operations by leveraging machine learning to intelligently identify variances in claims payments ahead of adjudication, thus improving PMPM costs. Another PwC solution enables payors to easily convert medical records to the standard FHIR format, improving interoperability and standardization.

Looking ahead

Security remains more critical than ever, and data interoperability is becoming a legislative requirement thanks to new industry-wide rules mandating the way data must be stored and shared. This is likely to drive even more demand for data sharing between payers and providers and will ultimately give patients more access and control over their health records — from any device. Healthcare providers know they need to prepare for this future — now — and by positioning themselves in the Google Cloud ecosystem they’re increasing operations no matter what develops down the road.

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