PT and Cloud-Based Computing…

What’s All The Buzz About?

Let’s Cut To The Chase

More and more PT’s these days are being introduced to offerings in the marketplace related to cloud-based and web-based solutions. And yet, the meaning behind these terms is often clouded in mystery (no pun intended). Here’s some information that will hopefully make sure that you can make a knowledge-based decision on matters related to cloud computing, and discover why it’s having such a positive impact on the physical therapy profession.

It’s In The Cloud

In a nutshell, cloud-based computing uses a HUGE computer (or a network of them) where a massive amount of memory can be divided up and shared among many people or organizations. Think of Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter. These companies have a colossal computer network that has a “shared” space where they can store and/or retrieve information for millions of individuals or organizations.

In a similar fashion, when organizations provide applications for people working in physical therapy that are “in the cloud”, they’re offering apps that use shared space on one or more massive computers. The providers of these applications usually rent space from one of many large organizations that own these powerful computers e.g. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle. When you’re told that something is “in the cloud”, immediately think of the word “in” and understand that the application or data is residing “in” a large computer somewhere. Yes, there’s ALWAYS a computer at the end of the line! And, yes, even though it is hard to imagine, there really are massive computers and networks out there that have enough space to accommodate the millions and millions of people that are accessing them every day from around the world.

It’s Web-based

When the data, information, or an application that you use is “in the cloud” you need to be able to access it somehow. This is where the term “web-based” comes into play and is often used in conjunction with cloud computing e.g. “Our application is web-based and in the cloud.”

For example, to access a cloud-based app we need to connect to the computer where that app is stored. To do that, we need to use the internet. And, to do that, we need a web browser. A web browser is simply a piece of software that we have on our laptop, desktop, or tablet that enables us to connect (via satellite) with other computers. Common examples of browsers are Google, Safari, or Firefox browsers.

Bottom line. To access cloud-based applications we need to use a web-based interface or connection. You must be online to access them.

Cloud Computing Addresses Challenges

In the not too distant past, clinics and hospitals etc. served the needs of clinicians by using in-house computers or servers. This was often a challenge because IT departments had budgets that needed to be managed, and they had a limited number of resources to accommodate the needs of their internal PT customers. Results? Quite often there was a competition for the people and computer resources in the IT department, and the requests from the PT department were sometimes trumped by higher priority needs of other departments in the organization.

An even greater challenge was faced by small and medium sized clinics that didn’t have the money or resources to have an in-house IT department or pay for private IT support. However, they still needed and wanted applications that would help them to manage their business and the services that they provided to their patients.

To address these challenges, more and more applications were (and are) being developed by independent providers and put in the cloud so that people working in physical therapy can access pre-packaged and affordable solutions. These solutions are often focused on making it easier to manage the “business side” of a clinic, or in enhancing best practice that leads to more positive patient outcomes. Why is this model proving to be so popular?

Benefits Of Cloud Computing

There are some new, exciting, innovative, and invaluable cloud-based solutions in the marketplace these days that are pre-built, relatively inexpensive, and extremely reliable. And, they’re realizing unprecedented success because they’re offering tremendous benefits to physical therapists and their teams.

Will a cloud-based solution work for you? Here are some benefits and ideas for you to consider when thinking about using a cloud-based solution in your practice:

  1. Reduce your costs. There’s no need to buy software, hardware or servers. Instead of expending money and resources on computers and infrastructure, the cloud offers a fantastic alternative and saves you money and capital expenditures! You only pay-as-you play for most offerings. For example, payments are often based on the number of users who are using the app or software on a monthly basis.
  2. Increase flexibility. Access anywhere, use anywhere, use anytime. You and your colleagues can access the applications and get work done from virtually any remote location. This makes it ideal for in-home therapy scenarios or multi-location sites. With cloud computing, if you’ve got an internet connection you can be at work.
  3. Enhance Collaboration Opportunities. When your team can access and share documents anytime, from anywhere, they’re able to do more together, and do it better. When you make the move to cloud computing, all files are stored centrally, and everyone sees one version of the truth. If your still attaching files or sending out updates by email, it could be time to try something a little more streamlined.
  4. Improve Security. No matter the size of the organization or security measures taken, security breaches are becoming more and more prevalent e.g. banks and hospitals. Cloud computing is not immune to this. However, the leading providers have platforms on HIPAA compliant sites, unparalleled sophistication in the software they use to prevent hacking, and the latest encryption methods for transmitting data back and forth to their clients. This security is very often superior to the security systems in place for many in-house systems. Plus, a lost laptop probably won’t contain sensitive information…because the data is in the cloud!
  5. Improve Competitiveness. The cloud gives access to the very latest enterprise-class technology for everyone working in physical therapy. It also allows smaller clinics to act faster than big, established competitors. Using the latest cloud- based applications and offerings enables small outfits to run with the big boys and have an unfair advantage in the marketplace!

Bottom Line. Cloud-based solutions running on the web may provide you with a way to change and improve outcomes for both you and your patients. Change is never easy. However, nothing improves without change. Good luck!

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