The healthcare industry worldwide is experiencing unprecedented disruption. Growing demand for services and increasing financial pressures are forcing healthcare providers to look for ways of delivering high quality treatment at lower cost – with digital innovation top of the list.
Pressure on healthcare to transform quickly and comprehensively is only increasing with observers noting the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating mental health issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and exposing shortfalls in public health systems’ ability to manage the crisis – with follow-on impacts on disease spread and treatment, and on healthcare workers’ wellbeing. Furthermore, the crisis has exposed gaps in ‘health equity’, limiting the ability of disadvantaged groups or individuals to attain their full potential for health and wellbeing.
However, planned and executed effectively, digital transformation enables healthcare providers to address these and other challenges and continue to usher in a new wave of health management. Carrie Xiao, Deloitte China Life Sciences and Health Care Consulting Partner, describes innovation in healthcare as focusing on the transition from treating disease to improving overall wellbeing.
“When you think about improving overall wellbeing, you have to think about prevention, early diagnosis of conditions and the always-on environment that tracks your behavior and gives you early warnings so before the condition gets worse, you can stop it,” Xiao says.
Separately, Deloitte points to improved data capability – a key outcome of digital transformation ¬- as helping shape the future of medical science. “Organizations are using insights from interoperable data and platforms supported by deep learning capabilities, ‘always-on’ biosensors and behavioral research to shape consumer beliefs and actions,” the firm says. “They are also applying virtual care, AI and other technologies to personalize medicine, enable real-time care interventions and provide behavioral nudges.”
Cloud products, services and infrastructure are helping healthcare providers unleash the rich potential of data, AI and other capabilities – delivering an improved experience for patients and medical professionals, more timely and informed care and an environment in which innovation can flourish.
Alibaba Cloud is helping healthcare organizations meet the challenges of operating in an increasingly digital, customer-centric environment, while contributing itself to the development and release of powerful healthcare solutions powered by AI and deep learning.
As far back as 2017, Alibaba Cloud partnered with Wuhan Landing Medical High-tech Co. to develop a system that uses advanced visual computation and AI technologies to detect early-stage cervical cancer using cell cytology. The cloud services provider also trained machines to read high-resolution CT scans and detect lung cancers.
The same year, Alibaba Cloud launched ET Medical Brain – a comprehensive suite of AI-based solutions for the medical industry that enabled institutions to improve drug development and hospital management, create AI-powered digital assistants, and leverage AI-based medical imaging to help accurately diagnose diseases and cancers.
Alibaba Cloud and the broader Alibaba Group continued to build its expertise and capabilities and in early 2020, research and innovation institute DAMO Academy developed an AI-enabled system that could diagnose COVID-19 in 20 seconds with 96% accuracy. Trained with data and CT scans from more than 5,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, and leveraging deep learning to study patterns of infection, the system identifies the novel coronavirus through computed tomography scans of the chest.
In March that year, Alibaba Cloud said it had offered medical personnel around the world advanced cloud-based applications to fight the pandemic, including (as well as CT scanning):
Alibaba Cloud also pointed to the availability of scalable supercomputing power through Elastic High-Performance Computing (E-HPC) Solution for Life Sciences, a cloud-native, high-performance computing cluster designed for researchers working on life sciences applications, especially for computational-driven-drug design and AI-driven-drug design.
Alibaba Cloud also provides a range of cloud-based products and services to help healthcare customers such as Teman Bumil, PuraPharm International (HK), Align Technology and Median Technologies can overcome obstacles to innovation and the delivery of high quality products and experiences.
For example, Teman Bumil was able to meet its dynamic scaling, cost control and data security requirements with an infrastructure that featured Alibaba Cloud Container Service for Kubernetes (ACK), Server Load Balancer (SLB), CloudMonitor and more, while PuraPharm turned to Alibaba Cloud MaxCompute and Alibaba Cloud Quick BI for data warehousing, analytics and visualization to deliver better-informed decisions.
Alibaba Cloud’s strong presence and familiarity with processes and requirements in China also provides a compelling reason to work with the provider to enter the complex market. Median Technologies needed support for a range of business objectives, including obtaining assistance with ICP filing – a compliance process required by the Chinese government to host websites using local servers and content delivery network infrastructure. Alibaba Cloud provided an ICP Filing Consulting Service that Median Technologies could leverage to deliver services to its Chinese customers as per rules set by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
Meanwhile, efficient, cost-effective data storage and management is becoming an increasingly important requirement for healthcare organizations. According to RBC Capital Markets, approximately 30% of the world’s data volume is generated by the healthcare industry and, by 2025, the compound annual growth rate of healthcare data is predicted to reach 36% ¬- 6% faster than manufacturing, 10% faster than financial services and 11% faster than media and entertainment.
The organization points out that ‘data is driving healthcare’, and notes that humans are expected to reach nearly 5,000 digital device interactions per person per day later this decade – much of which promises to be healthcare-related. “Healthcare technology will, one day very soon, literally touch us all on a daily basis,” says Greg Wiederrecht, Ph.D., Managing Director, Healthcare Investment Banking, for RBC Capital Markets.
Market intelligence firm Blueweave Consulting acknowledges the impact of the data surge on healthcare businesses, stating recently that “healthcare organizations across the world are investing a significant amount in upgrading their storage IT infrastructure to make it more versatile and robust to satisfy the growing demand in the healthcare sector.”
Alibaba Cloud provides secure, stable, reliable and intelligent storage solutions to meet healthcare organizations’ challenges – supporting throughput of terabytes of data per second and hundreds of millions of IOPS, providing twelve-nines reliability and delivering online AI analysis, security defense and fault prevention. They are also proven to meet healthcare organizations’ needs - Object Storage Service (OSS) and File Storage NAS are already helping organizations like Teman Bumil and Align Technology meet their storage requirements.
With Alibaba Cloud, healthcare providers can take advantage of disruptive technologies and scientific advances to provide more relevant, personalized, accurate and cost-effective services to patients worldwide.
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