Healthcare in the Cloud: A Window of Opportunity is Open


Amidst continuing industry uncertainty and consolidation, today’s healthcare organizations are expected to become agile, reduce costs, and direct capital toward revenue-generating activities that improve patient outcomes. Many healthcare organizations are feeling the pressure to adopt flexible, secure, and scalable IT solutions that support rapidly evolving models of connected care and the “bedless hospital.” It’s no wonder cloud computing is on the rise in the healthcare sector.

The public cloud supports agility by enabling IT teams to innovate and right-size resources without capital investment. With less hardware and fewer applications to maintain, your team can spend more time on strategic initiatives to improve operations and patient care. Cloud services can help assure business continuity in disaster-prone regions, facilitate HIPAA-compliant sharing of patient data, and unlock new capabilities in the form of genomics and machine learning. And, a well-thought-out cloud strategy can accelerate IT rationalization following a merger or acquisition.

Yet, despite the many advantages of cloud computing, the healthcare industry is still in the early stage of cloud adoption. Protecting patient data is a persistent concern, along with implementation, uncertainty, and risk.

Seventy percent of healthcare organizations have moved at least some applications or IT infrastructure off-premises, according to a KLAS Research survey. However, most of those using off-premises computing are doing so through a hosted application vendor, not through public cloud.

Where healthcare IT teams have turned to the cloud it has been primarily for non-critical applications. Analytics software, Office 365, and other common applications, along with development and testing, are typical candidates. Meanwhile, mission-central applications and data have remained mostly in on-premise data centers.

Cloud Services Have Matured

While the healthcare sector has largely hesitated to embrace the cloud, cloud services have advanced significantly. Today, you can choose from hundreds of cloud-based services, some created specifically for healthcare, as well as new approaches for managing them. Amazon Web Services (AWS) alone offers services in 20 different categories.

Also important are the new healthcare-specific solutions emerging in the marketplace. For instance, Google’s new cloud-based healthcare application interface (API) integrates multiple healthcare data types, providing a powerful advantage for research hospitals gathering data through multiple applications or clinical care teams generating large image files and patient monitoring data. Researchers at the Broad Institute, for instance, can analyze the human genome 400 percent more quickly with Google Cloud than with in-house computers and storage.

Meanwhile, many healthcare software companies either have or are developing their own software as-a-service applications that are hosted in the cloud. EMR providers and specialized software companies are also developing platforms that will analyze clinical data and predict treatments to improve population health.

Where to Start

Organization Alignment. Align with your clinical and business organizations so that cloud can be utilized if it is the proper platform for their applications. This will help to prevent shadow IT. Organize a process with your purchasing department so you can identify cloud applications as part of the purchasing process.

Security. Update your security framework and risk assessment process to incorporate cloud security. Many popular frameworks such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework already include controls that cover cloud security

Identity Management. Healthcare organizations will have a mix of software as-a-service and public cloud. Cloud identity management is key to ensure that proper access, authorization, and auditing of access is maintained for cloud applications.

Email, Instant Messaging, and Office Productivity. Many healthcare organizations have already moved to Microsoft Office 365 or Google’s G Suite. These areas are a great starting point when it comes to cloud migration.

Data & Analytics. Many organizations are moving their on-premise data lakes/Hadoop and data warehouse environments to the cloud to remove the burdens of continuous management. Most new deployments start in the cloud. Data and analytics is a sound place to start to leverage the scale out abilities of the cloud, as well as cloud’s artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.

Stay tuned for our next blog post outlining key predictions for the future of healthcare that cannot be realized without the cloud.


August 14, 2018