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Can the cloud help treat the healthcare industry's woes?

Nurdianah Md Nur
Nurdianah Md Nur11/10/2022 05:00 PM GMT+08  • 5 min read
Can the cloud help treat the healthcare industry's woes?
Larry Ellison shares how the cloud can help us get ahead of viruses and enhance patient care, at the Oracle CloudWorld 2022 in Las Vegas. Photo: Oracle
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Getting ahead of Covid-19 is no easy feat, as the virus mutates into new variants and strains. Fortunately, we have tools like the Global Pathogen Analysis System (GPAS), which enables governments and medical communities to identify and act on the variants faster.

The GPAS is powered by the University of Oxford’s Scalable Pathogen Pipeline Platform and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). It builds on the work of a Wellcome Trust-funded consortium, including Public Health Wales, the University of Cardiff, and Public Health England.

“The GPAS will help establish a global common standard for assembling and analysing the Covid-19 virus and other microbial threats to public health. This adds a new dimension to our ability to process pathogen data. We are excited to partner with Oracle to further our research using this cutting-edge technology platform,” says Derrick Crook, Professor of Microbiology in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford.

At the Oracle CloudWorld 2022 in Las Vegas, Larry Ellison, chairman and CTO of tech giant Oracle, shares that GPAS is the result of rewriting a system called SP3, which was initially used for tuberculosis, in just 68 days.

By repurposing SP3 to unify, standardise, analyse, and compare sequence data of SARS-CoV-2, the University of Oxford yielded annotated genomic sequences and identified new variants and those of concern. Oracle also enhanced SP3’s processing capability to ensure high performance and security plus 24/7 worldwide availability of the system in the Oracle Cloud.

The GPAS (or enhanced SP3 system) can therefore deliver comprehensive and standardised results of Covid-19 analyses within minutes of submission on an international scale.

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Since the disease is a worldwide issue, the results will be shared with countries globally in a secure environment. This allows scientists, researchers, and governments worldwide to process, analyse, visualise, and act on a vast collection of Covid-19 pathogen data. This includes identifying variants of interest and their potential impact on vaccine and treatment effectiveness.

For example, analytics dashboards in the system will show which specific strains are spreading more quickly than others and whether genetic features contribute to increased transmissibility and vaccine escape.

“There is a critical need for global cooperation on genomic sequencing and examining Covid-19 and other pathogens. The enhanced SP3 system will establish a global standard for pathogen data gathering and analysis, enabling medical researchers to understand the Covid-19 virus and others better before it becomes a major issue [and help governments worldwide develop effective] pandemic response strategies,” says Ellison.

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Shifting from hospital-centric to patient-centric

“Current healthcare systems are hospital-centric instead of patient-centric, which is a fundamental problem. Your data might be spread across many databases as each hospital has its database, hindering healthcare professionals from accessing your medical records when needed. [Isn’t it ironic that healthcare institutions probably know] more about a patient’s financial records through the global financial database that keeps track of every creditworthy person but struggles to know their health data such as blood type and drug allergy?” says Ellison.

He adds that patient data fragmentation can also prevent public policymakers from studying healthcare trends. The absence of a unified database containing anonymised data from healthcare providers throughout a country will make it almost impossible for public health officials to get a timely and complete view of the state of a nation’s health.

Ellison gave the example of New York City dispatching a hospital ship to the New York harbour early in the Covid-19 pandemic as its public health officials thought its hospitals were already full. “Turns out the hospital ship was never used. They were worried about running out of beds but didn’t have any data.”

The healthcare industry, therefore, needs an entirely different set of tools than before to support its operations and become patient-centric. Ellison believes Oracle’s open cloud infrastructure (including interconnects with other vendors’ clouds), comprehensive cloud application suites (including ones for healthcare and life sciences), and cloud-based data management tools could help healthcare institutions achieve that.

For instance, independent software vendor Ronin used Oracle’s open systems to develop an AI module for MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the world’s top centres devoted to cancer patient care and research. The AI module monitors cancer patients working through outpatient treatment plans to reduce hospitalisation.

Addressing workforce challenges in healthcare

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Faced with staff shortages and increasing workloads, healthcare institutions are under pressure to find better ways to support their employees so that they can provide the best possible patient care.

Specialised human resource (HR) solutions in Oracle Fusion Cloud Human Capital Management (HCM) can help by:

  • Reducing costs and improving productivity

  • Optimising staffing and scheduling
  • Moreover, flexible time reporting and processing enables healthcare institutions to plan for various work schedules, including static, rotating, split, or dynamic shifts. This helps them better schedule staff according to the skills needed for positions and optimise schedules to reduce patient wait times and focus more on quality care.

    Cloud infrastructure and applications can help improve healthcare outcomes from research to clinical care. Healthcare institutions should therefore leverage the cloud to improve their operational efficiency and help enable a healthier world.

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