The Future of Medicine: How Cloud Computing Is Paving the Way to Better Medical Research

July 24, 2014
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medical research and the cloudBefore you ever receive a prescription medication from your doctor, or a treatment option for a particular illness, medical research needs to be done.

medical research and the cloudBefore you ever receive a prescription medication from your doctor, or a treatment option for a particular illness, medical research needs to be done. With the aim of helping people get better and overcome their individual health issues, medical research is an important field where doctors, drug experts, and biologists work together to come up with solutions for the most pressing health problems out there. The major downside to medical research is that it is both time consuming and costly. Some drugs and treatments take years of study, experiments, trials, and tests before finally being made available to the public, and even then there is no guarantee of success. Finding ways to cut the costs of medical research along with its long timetable has been a goal for doctors for a long time, and a breakthrough looks to have finally been achieved through the use of cloud computing.

At the heart of medical research using cloud computing is the vast potential from big data. When it comes to medical information, there’s a lot of data out there, and sorting through it and analyzing it can be a laborious chore. But now, that task is much more manageable with big data analytics and cloud computing. Researchers can now look into patient information taken directly from clinics, which keep that data on hand. Years ago, using this information was fairly limited since estimates showed roughly 80% of it was unstructured. Now, however, the amount of data is no longer an obstacle as researchers take electronic medical records and use them in their studies. Cloud computing also allows researchers to engage in genome sequencing, effectively helping them analyze a patient down to the genetic level. This enables them to find new genetic interactions and factors that may explain why certain rare diseases happen. Based off this information, new drugs and treatments can be created to fight these rare illnesses. As the technology advances, treatments and drugs may even be prescribed depending on the individual patient, thus improving patient outcomes tremendously.

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Cloud computing helps to address several major obstacles medical research teams have had to deal with for years. Analyzing massive amounts of data has proven challenging, but cloud computing provides much more processing power. While the computing power of research labs has varied in the past, now most research teams have the same capabilities as others, allowing them to mine big data more efficiently and cut down on research time. Cloud computing also places that computing power at a much more affordable cost. Researchers would normally have needed to use their own hardware, software, infrastructure, and staff to make use of the requisite processing power, not to mention the maintenance cost of cooling the machines. Cloud computing is able to overcome that obstacle, with the machines and processing being done by a separate vendor. So not only does cloud computing make medical research faster, it does so at a cheaper cost than before.

In addition to those benefits, cloud computing also encourages more cooperation and collaboration between separate medical research teams. Part of the way this is achieved is through the use of cloud computing. Instead of holding onto their own research and findings, with cloud storage, researchers can compare what they have discovered. Cloud storage allows the sharing of large data sets, not just of patient information but of medical images. Storing visual information, in this case medical images, normally takes up a lot of room, which made it difficult to share with others. Cloud computing, however, makes this much more possible, motivating collaboration as a way to come up with the very best medical solutions.

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There are many services being made available for research teams to use in their search for medical solutions. Companies like Google, Microsoft, and particularly Amazon are opening up their own cloud computing options for researchers to use. Teams are able to use these massive resources as they see fit, even renting them by the hour if necessary, and utilizing only what they need instead of purchasing all their own equipment. The use of cloud computing vendors does lead to some serious questions about privacy, a very important topic when it comes to medical records. New federal regulations may ease the worry over medical privacy a little bit, but it is something all vendors will have to respond to eventually.

Tweet This: Researchers are using #cloud computing resources from Amazon and Google for the latest medical research.

The use of cloud computing for medical research is still in the beginning stages, which means there’s much more progress to be made. As researchers become more familiar with the technology’s advantages and capabilities, they’ll be able to use it in more unique, innovative ways. Expect cloud computing to play a prominent role in many major medical breakthroughs in the future.

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