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How cloud technologies and data analytics are transforming the healthcare sector: Vimal Venkatram

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With the utilisation of remote medicine technology or telehealth increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vimal Venkatram, Country Manager, Snowflake gives more details to Sanjiv Das on how cloud technologies and data analytics, like mobile health, IoMT are changing the face of the healthcare sector

What is the impact of cloud in the future of the healthcare industry? How did the role of cloud evolve during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Driven by the increasing adoption of big data analytics, wearable devices, and IoT, the global healthcare cloud computing market is projected to reach $51.9 billion by 2024. With the growing appreciation of cloud, the technology and its applications will play an important role in the future of the healthcare sector.

Currently, cloud technologies are helping the healthcare industry by increasing the efficiency of services and decreasing healthcare costs. Moreover, cloud makes management of health records easier and safer. It also automates back end operations and even facilitates the creation and maintenance of mobile health apps. As these medical innovations and technologies continue to evolve and gain traction, the impact of cloud computing in the healthcare industry is expected to grow stronger over the next five years.

Cloud computing is not a new concept in the healthcare sector. In the past, IoT devices, wearables and health-monitoring equipment have been gathering data which help health care institutions gain insights on diagnosis, disease management, treatment and prevention.

With collaboration, faster data analysis and emerging cloud technologies, data analytics could transform the health care sector and better prepare for future emergencies.

With the pandemic, when access to real-time data is crucial in creating strategies to curb the spread of the disease, related agencies were able to share, store and access data through the cloud. Stakeholders and health care practitioners were able to make quick decisions based on data collected from various sources. Furthermore, health organisations were able to collaborate and share data securely and safely, which is critical for researchers racing to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. The utilisation of remote medicine technology or telehealth has also seen an increase during the pandemic. Communities with limited access to health services were able to interact with cloud-connected health care professionals and receive appropriate medical advice.

What is the impact of cloud and data analytics on India’s healthcare sector? How can the country’s health sector benefit from cloud computing?

The healthcare industry generates vast amounts of data. To leverage the power of data, India’s healthcare sector is gearing up for digitalisation.  With the help of cloud technologies and data analytics, the potentials to improve overall patient care and collaboration and research are immense.

Healthcare analytics is a segment of digital healthcare that leverages data from hospitals and other facilities as well as patient records and diagnoses. The healthcare analytics market in India is expected to reach a value of Rs 47.04 billion by 2025, according to market research, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.49 per cent between 2020 and 2025. It is in its nascent stages of adoption in India, but healthcare analytics can help medical professionals meet the service requirements of the country more efficiently.

Migrating to cloud platforms offers the flexibility and storage capacity needed to house such large volumes of data and enable healthcare organisations to derive insights that positively impact patient care and hospital operations. With access to real-time information, healthcare professionals and executives are empowered to make informed decisions that improve overall care. By analysing data sets, healthcare professionals and researchers will be able to recommend steps to create disease-control strategies.

Here are some of the trends that are helping transform the healthcare sector:

Mobile Health

The advent of mobile health data applications, or mHealth, has given patients on-demand access to their health information. Through these apps, patients can view their medical records, communicate with their care team, and manage appointments and billing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Centralised electronic health record (EHR) systems have enabled self-service patient data management, empowering individuals to better track information about their health.

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

IoMT is comprised of medical devices and applications that are connected to healthcare IT systems via the internet. It includes consumer health wearables, remote patient monitoring trackers, sensor-enabled hospital beds, medication-tracking systems and medical supplies and equipment inventory tracking systems.

The expanding IoMT ecosystem is transforming healthcare and improving patient outcomes in India by enabling remote monitoring of patients with chronic diseases, improving drug management, and delivering a better patient experience.

Emerging Technologies

Other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and blockchain, hold promising potential in the healthcare field. From improving patient care to accelerating medical research and clinical trial analysis, organisations stand to provide potentially limitless benefits for patients and customers. As the adoption of data analytics in healthcare continues, the sector will see more use cases for these emerging technologies.

There is a call for the healthcare industry to be more transparent with data sharing and data handling. How can Snowflake contribute in this regard?

Data security is critical when handling Personally identifiable information (PII) and patients’ records. Healthcare institutions and medical professionals should have clearly defined policies and procedures in handling, storing and sharing patient data. Moreover, records should be kept in a secure and reliable environment where data can be easily and safely accessed by authorised users.

Snowflake provides value in this regard. Our platform offers a safe and stable environment where hospitals and healthcare institutions can manage data across their digital ecosystem. Snowflake takes data governance to the next level by providing governance capabilities that allow hospitals and healthcare institutions to monitor, grant and revoke access credentials, track usage and database entries, and implement advanced security controls on data. Moreover, data is updated in real-time and can be accessed directly from the cloud without the need to copy or move the file to another location.  This is what we term as the single source of truth to ensure that everyone in an organisation bases business decisions on the same data, and ensuring the right data is protected.

With these capabilities, quality data can be accessed safely at any time which improves collaboration and data security within the organisation.

Cloud adoption rate in India has grown remarkably fast as more organisations are realising the cost and operational benefits of moving to the cloud and this was further reinforced during the lockdown period. How important is the Indian market for Snowflake? What are your investment plans for the Indian market?

With various initiatives spearheaded by the government such as Digital India and Start-up India and other projects to improve digital connectivity, the country has positioned itself as an important market for various cloud providers. The support coming from the public sector has increased economic opportunities in the country and encouraged more business investments. Consequently, these developments have spurred the growth in cloud adoption in the last couple of years.

We recognised this need and this is why we announced the general availability of Snowflake on Amazon Web Services (AWS) in India in May 2020. This allows our customers in India to keep their data within the country and leverage the flexibility and scalability offered by a cloud data platform. The deployment will also encourage Indian organisations to utilise the instant elasticity offered by the cloud. Our goal is to help businesses grow by providing quick access to data safely and securely.

What are the opportunities and the challenges that you foresee for the Indian market?

India’s rapid technological transformation has made government services more accessible to citizens. With improved online infrastructure and Internet connectivity, the goal of making India a truly digital country is showing great progress. As the government ramps us adoption of data analytics, IoT and cloud technologies, services in various sectors such as education, healthcare and safety will see more innovations that will benefit the public.

On the other hand, the private sector has been reaping the benefits of investing in cloud technologies. With cloud data platforms, businesses have been deriving actionable insights from data, reducing costs and improving production efficiency, developing new products and services, and providing a better customer experience.

While we are seeing significant steps towards digitalisation and modernisation both in the public and private sector, several hurdles still need to be overcome to realise the full potentials of cloud in the Indian market such as cost, security and data privacy issues.

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