Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Afraid of Floating on Cloud 9? Some Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing

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Afraid of Floating on Cloud 9? Some Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing

By Marc Edwards, B.Sc. , PMP, Content Analyticss, bpms, MBA

Are you at the stage within your organization where cloud computing and storage is now a valid tactic to consider to maintain or increase your organization’s competitive advantage? This is obviously a complicated decision since having your data in-house on your own servers gives a sense of security that only proximity can bring.

I came across an article by Carlos Mendible that speak of some of the pros and cons for an organization going to the cloud. Some of the benefits include:

  1. Reduced IT costs: Fewer servers and the staff managing them are needed.
  2. Scalability: In this fast changing world it is important to be able to scale up or down your solutions depending on the situation and your needs without having to purchase or install hardware or upgrades all by yourself.
  3. Business continuity: when you store data in the cloud, you ensure it is backed-up and protected which in turn helps with your continuity plan cause in the event of a crisis you’ll be able to minimize any downtime and loss of productivity.
  4. Collaboration: Cloud services allow you share files and communicate with employees and third-parties in this highly globalized world and in a timely manner.
  5. Flexibility: Cloud computing allows employees to be more flexible in their work practices cause it’s simpler to access data from home or virtually any place with an internet connection.
  6. Automatic updates: When consuming the cloud services, you’ll be using the latest version of the product avoiding the pain and expensive costs associated with software or hardware upgrades.

That being said, some of the perceived cons to moving to the cloud are:

  1. Privacy agreement and service level agreement: You must understand the responsibilities of your cloud provider, as well as your own obligations. In some situations, is your obligation to do configure correctly the service in order to enable the best SLA possible.
  2. Regulatory compliance: Remember that although your data is residing on a provider’s cloud, you are still accountable to your customers for any security and integrity issues that may affect your data and therefore you must know the standards and procedures your provider has in place to help you mitigate your risk.
  3. Location of data: Know the location of your data and which privacy and security laws will apply to it cause it’s possible that your organization’s rights may get marginalized.
  4. Data privacy and security: Once you host confidential data in the cloud you are transferring a considerable amount of your control over data security to the provider. Ask who has access to your sensitive data and what physical and logical controls does the provider use to protect your information.
  5. Data availability and business continuity: How is your organization and the provider prepared to deal with a possible loss of internet connectivity? Weigh your tolerance level for unavailability of your data and services against the uptime SLA.
  6. Data loss and recovery: In a disaster scenario, how is your provider going to recover your data and how long will it take? Be sure to know your cloud provider’s disaster recovery capabilities and if and how they have been tested.
  7. Record retention requirements: If your business is subject to record retention requirements, how well is the cloud provider prepared to suite your needs?
  8. Environmental security: Cloud computing data centers are environments with a huge concentration of computing power, data, and users, which in turn creates a greater attack surface for bots, malware, brute force attacks, etc. Ask: how well prepared is the provider to protect your assets through access controls, vulnerability assessment, and patch and configuration management controls?
  9. Provider lockdown: What is your exit strategy in case your provider can no longer meet your requirements? Can you move your data and operations to another provider’s cloud? Are there technical issues associated with such a change?

I’ve learned that one of the best ways to alleviate fear is to conduct research. So if you are in the position where you need to make a decision about cloud computing, take the time to fully understand the implications. You’ll find that it will be quite worth it.

No Proper Executive Buy-in? No Health Analytics!

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By Marc Edwards B.Sc., PMP, MBA, Content Analytics

Healthcare facilities all over are diving into the health analytics pools with such vigor that those on the inside of these organizations often feel disoriented within the maelstrom and are left thrashing about as they try to keep their heads above water. Within some organizations, the pull of big data, business intelligence, and analytics is so strong, so much so that leadership may decide to create a whole health analytics function or program without much in the way of due process and business justification.

Now you may say to yourself, “Isn’t that what we want, enthusiastic buy-in? Isn’t that what the title of this blog post is about?” Well, yes and no. While we do want executive buy-in, it should be of the proper kind; sort of like buy-in with a purpose.

Determining the Business Need

When establishing a Health Analytics function, it would be greatly beneficial for both yourself and the organization to determine the business need behind this request. Ideally, that business need should be clear and communicated effectively to all involved, and eventually translate into the Health Analytics team’s mandate. When observing this, it should become clear to you whether or not the request to create a Health Analytics group is a need or a want. If it is a need, then it should be backed by data, facts, and other forms of hard evidence. If it’s simply a want, well then, heaven help you.

If you don’t have a clear business need and/or mandate when forming a Health Analytics group, you are going to end up feeling a bit scattered as you try different things in finding something that works for the organization. Without the business need in place, you are going to have difficulty determining a mandate, roles and responsibilities, what tools to use, and your team’s basic overall reason for existence. As a result, time and money is wasted as you try to figure out what to do and team morale and enthusiasm fades as the anticipated changes continue to be postponed. Obviously, this is something to avoid.

If you find yourself without a mandate, it is important to try to establish one as you develop your team, ideally with their input, as they will be the ones implementing the program and this would be an effective way to get their buy-in.

Creating a Business Case

Another way of side-stepping the issue of no mandate would be to create a business case intended for executive leadership, one loaded with whatever metrics you can find. Think about potential data uses and data sources and try to make connections between them and to the organization’s goals and objectives as well.

I think it’s clear that without proper executive buy-in, the establishment of an effective Health Analytics program/function is difficult at best and impossible at worst. However, if you are able to do it, it will set up the creation of an effective Health Analytics team.

Let me know if you can think of anything else when looking for executive buy-in.

6 Problems with an “Uber-ized” healthcare

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by Marc Edwards, B.Sc., PMP, MBA

In my prior post I talked about some of the opportunities available for an Uber-ization of healthcare. However, there are many obstacles as well that should be considered. Some of these are quite obvious and others not so much. Quickly, here are a few:

1.            Electronic health records (EHRs)

What role would an EHR play in an Uber-ized environment and how will this new Uber-like software interact with the EHR? Will there be much data sharing? If not, this would be a missed opportunity of significant proportions as the amount of data collected will be colossal and could be used to help treat the patient more effectively. Making this information available through an EHR would help facilitate the logistics between this new software, hospitals, and other health providing clinics.

2.            The matter of health insurance

What would be the role of health insurers in this new environment? I imagine that they would not find this new scenario ideal. Logically, this new Uber-ization of healthcare should lower the cost of healthcare overall by increasing the availability and access to healthcare, making health insurance less vital to the average American. Of course, for those of us who live in countries with subsidized healthcare, this is not an issue.

3.            Qualifications

How will the owners of this new software ensure that the health consultants providing medical advice are indeed qualified to do so? As I mentioned in previous posts, it will be a major hurdle to assure the public that this new platform will not be inhibited by quacks and frauds. And how will the software owners confirm that the credentials of the health consultants are accurate? Logistically, this would be a difficult feat indeed.

4.            Prescriptions

What about prescriptions? How does one get a prescription filled for medicine that they desperately need in this new environment? Do we now have to consider electronic prescriptions? The opportunity for misuse would be great in this instance. In addition, the health provider must take into account the patient’s medical history and the prescriptions that they have taken in the past and what they are taking right now, information that could be available in an EHR (see point #1).

5.            Physical diagnoses

And how will physical diagnoses work? Would it be enough just to take a photo of an aliment and send it to the provider? What about those problems that can be diagnosed, in part, by touch? How would that work in an Uber-ized environment?

6.            Privacy & Information Governance

With an Uber-ized healthcare, we will need to address the privacy question. How will our health information do you protected? Do any of the devices used to access this software need to be encrypted? And how will the companies that make these devices manage this? Would the companies by responsible for this or would the consumers of these devices be responsible? Where will the health information be stored? Will the companies housing such information have the appropriate safeguards in place? What will happen in the instance of a privacy breach and who would be responsible? How will the information be protected? Giving the value of health information to the user and a potential hacker, privacy and information governance may prove to be the most important aspect of them all.

Conclusions

While all of these questions may seems daunting, it’s important to realize that technology changes usually come first with the legislation and behavioral changes coming afterwards. Therefore, although an Uber-ized healthcare seems far-fetched and to some, a crazy idea, one shouldn’t be surprised if such a platform is developed within the next few years. The challenge for all of us will be to deal with such a phenomenon when it does occur taking all of the above into consideration. What else should we consider in the event of a new Uber-ized healthcare?

3 Opportunities for an “Uber-ized” Healthcare

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3 Opportunities for an “Uber-ized” Healthcare

by Marc Edwards, B.Sc., PMP, MBA

In my previous post, I talked about one author’s perspective on a future “Uber-ized” healthcare system, and after given it some thought, I have come up with some opportunities that we can expect in the future that will make all of this more feasible.

  1. We all have access to a lot of medical knowledge

Simply go to any web browser an you can have access to a vast medical knowledge base at your fingertips, greater than ever in human history. Think of all of the different websites where one could go to get medical information:

  • Medicine/health oriented websites, like WebMD
  • YouTube
  • Wikipedia

In addition, more health apps and wearable devices allow the average person to track and record many aspects of their own personal health information. Some of these devices include:

  • Activity trackers, like FitBit
  • Smart watches
  • Smart phones
  • Singular home devices (e.g. blood pressure machines, diabetic devices)

The potential for this information ever increases as we not only have access to greater amounts of health knowledge, but we will also have greater access to our own personal health information.

  1. Increasing medical costs make alternatives more attractive

Healthcare costs are rising everywhere, especially in the Western world, where healthcare costs are increasingly becoming giant anchors to governmental budgets. The Uber-ization of healthcare could theoretically bring down costs as demand for beds decrease and home care becomes easier due to this “Uber-ization”. Mobile devices may allow users to video conference each other via apps like Facetime, so it’s not too difficult to envision a future where a health provider can use such tech to observe a patient taking his medicine as prescribed, or to diagnose a skin aliment that another patient is suffering from. There is obviously strong benefits to having this technology available, especially for patients with mobility issues, concerns about paying for transportation to hospitals or clinics, and just basically gives healthcare access to those of us who are generally prone to avoid a visit to the doctor’s office.

  1. Continual advancement of technology

One of the successes of Uber has been to narrow the knowledge gap between the taxi driver and rider so that intricate knowledge of the urban landscape is available to anyone with a computer connected to the Internet. GIS technology has obviously been an important player in this relationship. To this point, can an Uber-ization of healthcare bring about self-diagnosis? This is a very important question as it will directly impact the business model of what we are proposing here. Are we really talking about removing the healthcare provider from the circle of care? What’s missing is that “GIS-type” technology that narrows the knowledge gap between provider and patient. It’s obviously hard to predict the future but if I try, I would say that the equalizing tech could consist of two things:

  1. Tech (wearables?) that can easily measure blood tests/heart rate/blood pressure, maybe through either spit or sweat
  2. Artificial intelligence that aggregates the above data, crawls online medical content, and merges it with any patient photos taken, in order to make a diagnosis

In my previous post, I expressed some doubt about the feasibility of an Uber for healthcare because I was focused on humans continuing to provide healthcare. However, it is becoming apparent to me that technology, not us, may be the primary healthcare provider of the future. My next post will speak to the challenges of an Uber-ized healthcare but in the meanwhile, let me know what you think.

Thoughts on an “Uber” healthcare

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I recently came across an article by Davis Liu speculating on the reality of an “Uber for healthcare” within the next ten years. Needless to say, after re-posting this article, it received a lot of views from a lot of interested health care providers. While I won’t go over the entire article in detail, I can summarize as follows:

  • Uber made the taxi experience more convenient as cash doesn’t exchange hands
  • The plethora of GPS navigation apps narrowed the knowledge gap between taxi drivers and non-taxi drivers and made those unique skills easily available for everyone with internet connection
  • The equivalent “equalizing” software for health care is not available as yet

While the above points are valid, there is still a vast number of other significant roadblocks to be hurdled even if “uberized” technology was introduced to healthcare. After all, healthcare is a far more complicated beast that the taxi industry with much more regulation. In addition, would it mean that ANYONE could provide healthcare in the future? I will write my thoughts on this in future posts, but for now, let me know what you think.