Analyst Report: Leveraging cloud computing to promote good health


It’s several weeks after New Year’s, and that typically means that our resolutions to lose weight and work out more have given way to pizzas and donuts.

For most of us, the ability to stay on a healthy path is difficult. Most of us can’t afford personal trainers and dietitians, and we don’t know how to track our progress to even know if we’re making progress. Thus, many people become frustrated.

You don’t have to go far to find some depressing data. The CDC reports that more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7 percent) are considered obese. Moreover, obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.

So, what does the “battle of the bulge” have to do with cloud computing?  This is an instance where the technology may provide us with a productive path.

One of the key trends at the recent CES show in Vegas was the number of devices that are designed to monitor our bodies as well as share that information. CES saw Wi-Fi-enabled bathroom scales that monitor BMI (body mass index) and weight, as well as everything and anything that now hook into our smartphones, including blood pressure monitors, food tracking systems with bar-code scanners, sleep monitors, heart rate monitors, calorie monitors, pedometers, and so forth.

You name it and there is a device we can purchase to monitor it. My only hope is that Bluetooth is not a carcinogen.

The opportunity is that all of this data is now available and cheap to gather and maintain. Almost all of these devices transmit their findings to a cloud-based database, and we or our doctors can examine them at any time. Many of them have services that allow you to share data, such as the My Fitness Pal app on my iPhone that shares data with my Runtastic App. Thus I get an automatic calorie credit for working out.  Running for 30 mins equals just one slice of pizza.

Of course, the ways that our devices and apps share information is haphazard today. However, as cloud-based data sharing becomes more of a reality, we’ll move quickly to a time when we can provide ourselves and our doctors with a complete profile. We will share our current state of health, as well as data points gathered over the past several months that could better determine a pattern for diagnostic purposes.  Thus, we have a much better opportunity for preventative care. Healthier people means lower health care costs.

The idea of having our health data centrally located and accessible in the cloud is both scary and exciting. Because we’re providing a more complete picture of ourselves, this certainly brings up privacy concerns and the Big Brother fears that our data will somehow fall into the hands of insurance companies that will automatically adjust rates or cancel policies based on this information.

However, the benefits far outweigh the fears. Benefits may include the ability to leverage data analytics, even big data, to identify patterns that may allow your doctor to diagnose something earlier than if you just came in for exams. For instance, the behavior of your heart when under stress may not be apparent in a routine exam, but it could appear on the doctor’s dashboard when analyzing data gathered over several months.

The objectives of this technology are pretty clear:

  • Leverage the rise in smartphone and other devices as a way to gather data points about our health
  • Transmit that data to a central cloud-based database where it can be accessed and analyzed by both the patient and the physician
  • Focus on preventative care, thus avoiding hospitalization.  This should reduce health care costs significantly over time
  • Make the health care system easier to access, including not having to constantly make doctor’s appointments to correct minor problems
  • Pay attention to security and privacy concerns as this technology is deployed, including any regulatory changes required

This is not science fiction; this technology is here and ready for use today. That said, health care providers are slow to adopt any technology, and this emerging area is no exception. It’s going to take close coordination among technology providers, insurance companies, and health care provider networks to make this work. What is certain? This is another killer application for the cloud.









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