Health workers look to the cloud to prevent infectious diseases

As the cloud becomes more widely adopted, the uses for the technology continue to grow. One of the sectors where the uses for cloud computing are advancing rapidly is healthcare.

In hospitals across the country, doctors and nurses are operating over the cloud on virtual desktops in order to access their desktops wherever they are. With the use of virtualization, medical staff are able to access their computers from the nearest thin clients instead of going back to their offices. Not only does this improve patient care, as charts can be updated more quickly and checked more frequently, but less movement helps to stop the spread of infection and decreases contamination. Fewer doctors and nurses entering the rooms of highly contagious people means a lower chance of spreading the disease, and virtual desktops enable medical staff to continue treating patients with a minimal risk of contamination. 

Aid workers look to the cloud for data sharing
On a larger scale, the University of California, San Francisco is in the process of creating a cloud-based platform that would utilize data from the Google Earth Engine to provide health workers around the world with actionable information to predict areas where malaria transmission is the most likely. Google Earth Engine is an aggregator of trillions of satellite images dating back almost 40 years ago, paired with online tools to help researchers map trends, identify changes and quantify differences in the Earth's surface. The project is aiming to provide resource-poor nations with the tools to more narrowly and effectively target campaigns against malaria, which kills 600,000 people each year.

The new tool will look at the relationship between occurrences of the disease and environmental factors like rainfall. Maps of the local areas on the Earth Engine will also help scientists and aid workers learn more about what drives malaria transmission. The malaria prediction tool will also allow health workers to share their information from the field about where and when malaria cases have occurred. By combining real time information with satellite data on environmental conditions within Earth Engine, the tool will be able to pinpoint where new cases are most likely to emerge. With more specific locations of expected outbreaks, healthcare officials can distribute bed nets, spray insecticides and give medicines directly to the people who need them most. 

The cloud platform will be launched in Swaziland, but there are plans to make the tool available to workers within the Global Health Group initiative operating in other countries. The program's creators are also looking into adapting the platform to help predict other infectious diseases.

Cloud helps hospitals treat patients more effectively 
​Cloud-based medical programs are also being used in hospitals across the country, including Memorial Hermann Health System in Texas which recently launched a cloud platform that monitors patients for signs of infections. The technology monitors all of its hospitals' patients simultaneously and continuously for signs of sepsis, a life-threatening infection complication that affects nearly 750,000 people nationwide each year and has a 50 percent mortality rate.

The sepsis monitoring system uses precise calculations to detect signs of infection in patients and alerts staff when at least two signs have been found, including rapid breathing, low blood pressure or fever. The tool alerts medical staff to the infection and enables them to quickly begin procedures to treat the condition.