The NHS takes crucial steps towards adoption of the cloud by Orlando Agrippa, CEO, Draper and Dash

The government has taken a significant step towards supporting cloud-provisioned environments for storing NHS patient data as a means to drive better value and security for healthcare services which includes public and private data. As part of a shake up by NHS Digital, new methods for collecting, accessing and analysing patient data could create a more flexible and agile workforce that puts patient safety at the fore, whilst saving costs associated with IT infrastructure. This comes as the need to modernize the NHS reaches a critical juncture, and the cloud could provide the lynchpin to orchestrate a new era for health services. This is welcomed news for technology providers like Draper and Dash (D&D) who see the significant value for patient care and health service improvements.

NHS Digital, the technology arm of the national health and social care system, has stated that the aim of the guidance is to provide stakeholders with advice on how to use cloud computing services safely and securely in healthcare. The guidance will ensure that organisations know how to use cloud-provisioned environments safely and securely. This comes during tighter restrictions on the processing and transfer of personal data are being brought in through the launch of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May.

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has given the green light for a National Guidance to be published clearly outlining expectations for health and care organisations who want to use cloud services or data offshoring to store patient information. Although some NHS practices already use the cloud for patient data, this is a clear step, with government backing, to begin the process of harnessing the storage capabilities and processing power of the cloud environment.
The Health and Social Care Information Centre also sets out clear guidance with their ‘NHS Digital’s strategy for 2015-20’ which places significant emphasis on information technology delivering better social care to patients. Not only must citizen data be protected, and local and national standards be met, but new partnerships and re-skilling of the workforce will need to be systematically addressed in order to achieve success. The promise is that healthcare “professionals will have timely access to the information, data, analysis and decision-support systems that they need to deliver safe and effective care”. So just how powerful can the cloud be and how agile will technology companies need to be to help the NHS meet their goals?
There are of course legitimate concerns regarding the cloud, with cyber security and patient data privacy rightly being a concern. Part of the argument, and the leadership position the government plans to take, is to outweigh the benefits vs the potential pitfalls that are sometimes cited. IT leaders have not always seen a common goal or interest given a lack in benefits or standards that would ease concerns. By digitizing health services, and providing new methods of working, it’s expected that the benefits and value will outweigh concerns. It could of course be incumbent on major software or technology providers to ensure all the concerns are met and the cloud environments to not compromise patient safety and privacy.

Microsoft Launches UK Cloud Data Centres

One such software provider has recently announced its contribution towards cloud computing. Microsoft has launched its first UK-based data centres to support cloud services such as Office 365, with the Ministry of Defence and the NHS among its initial customers. At D&D, we are particularly pleased to be partnering with the technology giant as well as moving our HQ to the Microsoft Accelerator premises in London. This provides the perfect opportunity for D&D to enable its technology and services to be at the fore of cloud computing as it looks to further revolutionize the healthcare industry.

The move to house data in the UK comes as concern had grown about offshoring public data to various locations that could compromise safety and security. This move from Microsoft ensures the UK can meet goals previously set out by government-led initiatives. Although no launch date has been set, this is good news for the industry and technology partners that want to harness their Azure platform. The next step is for healthcare organisations to adopt the latest technology to deliver better patient care and better business outcomes.

The Digital Ecosystem

Healthcare organizations have not always been the earliest adopters of technology. This is in part due to the cost required to implement IT infrastructure or technology. The NHS is a large, government-funded organization that is well-known for underfunding and much-needed improvements. But the digital opportunity could enable a new ecosystem that alleviates the pressure healthcare organizations are under to deliver this going digital strategy is here, and available. Rather than being afraid of the digital transformation, those responsible should see this as the opportunity to deliver results. Doing good with data is becoming pervasive, in many industries, and there is no greater good than in healthcare. Of course, efficiency savings need to be handled with care. Having a trusted partner who is fully vested in the success of your project can provide not only long last benefits or business outcomes, but can also forge relationships that deliver above and beyond expectation. Bringing in the right technology partner can mitigate risk, bring on the expertise required and deliver against key performance indicators that are set out from the start.

The developments of digital adoption with the cloud is going to provide much excitement in the industry. The opportunity for the NHS is clear for many to see, and along with the government backing, the future of the NHS is partly dependent on technology. As the CEO of a technology firm that aims to improve the health service, I can only echo the upside to a digital ecosystem. The opportunity to partner with Microsoft and their robust Azure platform offers best-in-class cloud environments in which to deliver analytics and insight. But what are the significant upsides to cloud processing power? I’d recently commented on the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and I believe the cloud holds the key to these. The cloud offers not only seemingly unlimited storage capability, but also ongoing processing power as the “machine” works 24/7 to find patterns and correlations to provide answers and solutions to issues based on the data it has available. The better the data, the more robust the platform, the better the outcome.

D&D prides itself on delivering better outcomes. By partnering with major brands to ensure services meet stringent data standards and performance, D&D will be delivering first-class solutions to its partners and customers. The cloud in particular is a real source of excitement. It provides not only cutting-edge solutions, but the required computational power and flexibility to deliver. By embedding AI and machine learning into our applications, D&D continues to be at the cutting edge of technology. Having delivered solutions across the globe, and with over 60+ satisfied clients, D&D continues to grow and deliver against its targets and looks forward to burgeoning relationships in the future.

For more information please visit www.draperanddash.com