Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt: The Promise of Cloud Computing in Healthcare
Sep 27, 2022
Recently, I had just returned from a business trip and started feeling those dreaded flu-like symptoms. Within 15 minutes, I was speaking to a doctor via a video visit using an app on my smartphone. My doctor confirmed a COVID-19 diagnosis. The convenience and effectiveness of telemedicine made me wonder: What took it so long?
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an inflection point for cloud adoption. Social distancing is the norm, prompting healthcare providers to rethink doctor-patient interactions. That’s why we see telehealth trends picking up exponentially. As healthcare systems accelerate the rollout of telemedicine programs and remote workforces during the pandemic, they needed agile, scalable solutions to support their response to the public health emergency. Hospitals had to track patients, report infection rates, schedule vaccinations, and tackle many more clinical tasks that required a flexible, cloud-based solution. Hospitals, medical providers, and other healthcare organizations learned how cost-effective and efficient cloud-based storage solutions are when managing patient data.
Over the past decade, I’ve had a ringside view of organizations from various industries adopting cloud as their computing platform of choice. However, while online apps for shopping, banking, brokerage, and real estate have become ubiquitous, healthcare has lagged in cloud adoption. This trend can be seen in the following chart from Gartner, which shows cloud spending as a percentage of total IT spending across various industries.
(source: Gartner, Inc.; “Actively Manager the Accelerating Shift to Public Cloud”; Ganley, Chris and Warrilow, Michael; 23 March 2022)
Outside of the recent urgency created by COVID-19, the rate of cloud adoption in the healthcare industry has been slow for three main reasons:
1. Concerns about data security
A CIO at a children’s hospital once asked me why he should trust the public cloud with the security and sensitivity of internal clinical data. The question did not surprise me. After all, entrusting your secure data to a third party outside of your own premises is a valid fear. However, major cloud service providers (CSPs) spend billions on fortifying security controls for the cloud-hosted infrastructure that other companies simply cannot fathom. They go the full distance to offer HIPAA-compliant services and maintain audits for SOC, HITRUST, and other certifications. A market research report suggests that organizations that host all their applications in the public cloud are less likely to experience a data breach or ransomware attack. This is not to say that data privacy and security should not be of concern when deploying workloads in cloud, but most cloud platforms offer myriad data security options that fortify cybersecurity posture.
2. Perceived complexity and cost
For small to mid-size healthcare organizations, migrating to the cloud can be daunting. Regardless of size, most healthcare providers share the same needs related to security, availability, and HIPAA compliance. There are several tried and trusted recipes for transitioning to the cloud that have been widely adopted by thousands of enterprises around the world. It behooves healthcare organizations to find a trusted partner, such as CTG, who is adept at cloud migrations and has industry expertise.
3. Use of COTS software
There are several commercial off the shelf (COTS) systems that are popular in the healthcare industry. If a healthcare IT organization wants to deploy and benefit from cloud-native applications, they need to wait for their COTS software to be migrated to the cloud. The good news is that all major electronic health records (EHR) vendors (e.g., Cerner, Epic, Allscripts, and MEDITECH) are making the move. CSPs have launched major initiatives for hosting EHR solutions on the cloud (i.e., Oracle recently purchased Cerner, AWS launched Epic on AWS, and Microsoft and Allscripts formed a strategic alliance).
There is no doubt that cloud computing is becoming very appealing to the healthcare industry, and global cloud tech markets in the field are projected to grow year over year. In addition to telehealth, many healthcare organizations are using wearable technology to monitor their patients’ health, requiring cloud-based platforms to update medical data. Instant access to information offered by the cloud ensures patients get customized care. On the EHR front, during Cerner’s recent acquisition announcement, Larry Ellison, American businessman, entrepreneur, and cofounder and former CEO at Oracle, talked about building a national EHR database to address interoperability challenges for patients, providers, and health agencies, and how there is no better platform than the cloud to make that happen.
GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.
Director, Cloud and Infrastructure, North America
As Director of CTG’s Cloud and Infrastructure Solutions for North America, Mr. Vinayak has executive responsibility for the ongoing development of CTG’s cloud computing offerings to deliver innovative services that help clients strategically address their business challenges. Tony is a software services delivery leader with a track record in profitability and customer satisfaction. He brings broad industry, domain, and technology expertise, and is a subject matter expert in cloud computing and DevOps automation.