The Cloud is a Doctor's New Office

Michele Warg
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Combine medical technology with cloud computing, and patients may soon visit a doctor's office through a smartphone, portable device or computer screen rather than driving all the way to a clinic. Expensive appointments for regular checkups may become less frequent if a couple of companies have their way.

Tech startup CliniCloud, co-founded by Dr. Andew Lin, plans to ship Bluetooth-connected stethoscopes and thermometers to doctor's offices in July 2015. The aim of these devices is to bring cloud computing into the homes of patients to check heart rate, breathing and temperature. The information gets transmitted through wireless networks to an on-call doctor at a remote location. The doctor then checks vital signs thanks to cloud computing software that gives him access to the records. Information gets shared with a person's primary care physician, but the network of on-call physicians can help make a diagnosis quickly. If further action is necessary, the on-call doctor can give the patient instructions.

Scanadu created a handheld device called the Scanadu Scout that lets patients run a small probe over their foreheads. The device reads temperature, heart rate, blood oxygen and respiratory rate and transmits the data to a cloud computing program that lets doctors ascertain any problems. Urine test and pregnancy tests are not far away with this type of medical technology.

As with any new device, legalities may occur. If a doctor uses cloud computing to diagnose a patient and something goes wrong, who is at fault? Who is responsible if the medical devices fail or transmit faulty data and a misdiagnosis occurs? Can the manufacturer of this technology be sued for malpractice? What happens to medical malpractice lawsuits and malpractice insurance because of these devices? The health care industry must help answer these questions moving forward with new ways to intervene on a patient's behalf.

A doctor's office may look less like cabinets full of medical records and more like a sleek, streamlined technological marvel. A new buzzword with health care professionals revolves around "cloud versus closet" principles. When medical records go to the cloud, vaults of paper medical files become obsolete. Privacy advocates and health care systems must be able to protect patient privacy while ensuring these records will not get lost in the cloud. A doctor's office, in the near future, may very well be a place surrounding by white, vaporous clouds rather than bulky files and closets full of outdated technology.

New technology can enhance the experience of patients, but it always comes with issues that health care systems must be prepared to combat. Cloud computing is here to stay, but security measures must ensure privacy is protected. If these new technologies fail, policies must be in place to deal with the consequences.


Photo courtesy of Bart Everson at



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