Healthcare firms see more gain than pain in the cloud

by Sohini Bagchi    Sep 25, 2013


The healthcare sector is increasingly realizing the benefits cloud technologies can bring to table and a growing number of healthcare firms are allocating funds for migration to cloud computing in the next five years. A recent report by Marketsandmarkets predicts that globally cloud computing will grow at a CAGR of 20.5% from 2012 to 2017 in the healthcare industry.

According to the report, even though the transition to cloud will not be completely hassle-free, the jump has been phenomenal, considering the penetration of cloud in healthcare was only 4% worldwide in 2011.

A mixed bag

Although cloud computing offers significant advantages to healthcare firms, experts point out security of patient information, interoperability and compliance with government regulations are some of the factors that are slowing down this market. Despite these common beliefs, many others are finding better security models and technology in the cloud, which will accelerate the adoption, say experts.

“The amount of data health care providers deal with is tremendous, and currently these are managed in silos. This involves huge costs and results in inefficiencies in treating patients, which in turn has affected the return on investment, and more importantly reputation,” says Ajay Sawant, Managing Director of AllTimeIT Solutions.

Agrees Vishal Anand Gupta, Jt. Project Director HIMS & Manager - Systems, CMRI who believes the future of healthcare is cloud. “The key driving factors for healthcare firms to move to cloud-based platforms are the need to increase storage and compute capacity at a much lower expense and the ability to centrally manage patient data that are mostly managed by silos at present,” he says.

Gupta believes a powerful motivation for healthcare firms to shift to cloud computing is to reduce operational costs, because many have very limited budgets and the security and privacy issues will also continue to be a key focus, where CIOs and CISOs have to be more agile.

Many believe that the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt public clouds owing to its highly regulated nature. However, Sawant states that while public cloud adoption may take a while in the healthcare sector, private and hybrid cloud models will find a greater prominence in this industry.

Yet to reach maturity

The report however points out that most IT organizations in the healthcare sector do not have the talent required to move their systems safely to cloud-based platforms, and many do not understand the compliance and security issues as well. However, it is just a matter of time because most healthcare providers are getting innovative around the use of new technology, cloud computing being one among them, says Sawant.

The report also observes that unlike before when healthcare providers in the developed regions such as North America accounted for the lion’s share in the cloud computing market, emerging markets will also embrace the cloud in a big way in the coming years. Many Indian healthcare providers are bullish on their cloud projects and are seeing tremendous gains in the cloud. Narayana Hrudayalaya, for example has very recently joined the cloud bandwagon by deploying a cloud-based Healthcare Information System (HIS) and improved operational efficiency with 99.99% uptime and also reduced 40% operational expenses. (Read the complete case study here)

Considering all the pros and cons, moving to cloud will give healthcare providers new opportunities for consolidating patient data to help physicians and clinicians make better decisions. At the same time, the companies in this sector can save tremendous costs through reduced redundancy and cheaper operational costs. As Gartner also points out in a report that healthcare is one of the preferred sector for cloud providers in the coming months and it is time for healthcare to capitalize on the cloud opportunity, something that smart organizations have already begun to realize.