How Healthcare is Using Cloud
Guest post by Ali Din, CMO, dinCloud
Can you remember how you operated without a cell phone at your disposal 24/7? If you’re like most people today, braving the outside world without a cell in hand probably gives you palpitations. The healthcare industry has seen a comparable shift as a result of technology innovation over the past couple decades. So much so that healthcare practitioners who are somewhat new to the industry may not be accustomed to the manual practices that were in use just a few years ago.
As for today, we know that healthcare companies are using cloud. Perhaps most prominently, electronic health records (EHR) are widely adopted. In fact, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) reports that a majority (83 percent) of healthcare organizations are using cloud services today. With adoption spanning nearly the entire industry, cloud technology has transformed how healthcare is administered.
Given the scale of cloud adoption, a few questions remain. Namely, how is healthcare using cloud today? Now that the industry has adopted the cloud, what does the future hold?
How Is Healthcare Using Cloud?
To start, let’s explore one specific use case. Medicalodges, a post-acute healthcare organization based in Kansas, was looking to get away from managing its own infrastructure. By moving to the cloud, it was able to improve collaboration, security, and set up a business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) solution. Today, the organization has virtualized its servers with dinCloud’s Hosted Virtual Server (dinServer) solution. As a result, Medicalodges reports benefits including: improved collaboration, security, disaster recovery, cost savings, and scalability. Looking ahead, Medicalodges has future plans to run a mix of browser-based thin clients and continue to expand its cloud infrastructure.
Moving to larger scale trends: Tech Target sums up current use of cloud in healthcare with the following applications: storage of protected health information, software as a service (SaaS), platforms as a service (PaaS), digital imaging, and clinical research.
In its 2014 Analytics Cloud Survey, HIMSS found that 43.6 percent of surveyed healthcare organizations are currently hosting clinical applications and data. Meanwhile, 35.1 percent are using the cloud for BC/DR, 14.9 percent have virtualized servers, and 8.1 percent are using hosted virtual desktops (HVDs). In another case, a medical organization needed to run several versions of a specific testing application. However, they could not run it on the same computer because of compatibility conflicts of running the same application in multiple instances. They leveraged application publishing from dinCloud to virtualize the application. The application sits in the cloud and can be opened in multiple instances on the same computer now.
Continuing to explore how healthcare organizations are using the cloud, we should also examine why they decide to adopt the technology. In the HIMSS survey, one surprising finding is that “regulatory compliance” was only cited by 41.9 percent of respondents, while “less cost to maintaining current IT maintenance” was the most popular driving factor cited by more than half of respondents.
This suggests that the simplified management and support services offered by cloud providers have proved appealing as a driver of cloud adoption in healthcare – potentially due to widely reported staffing and budget cuts. It also stands to reason that as healthcare organizations realize benefits like this, they may look to reap more of these gains by moving more of their infrastructure to the cloud.
The Future of Cloud in Healthcare
As for the future of the industry, Healthcare IT News reported that the cloud market could triple in size within five years – jumping to just shy of $10B.
Where specifically will we see growth? HIMSS once again weighs in with its annual analytics survey. When asked which areas they anticipate using cloud services in the future, the top three scenarios included “hosting of archived data,” “backups and disaster recovery,” and “hosting of operational applications and data.”
HIMSS summarizes its findings in the survey as follows: “In this context, the majority of healthcare organizations reported plans to transition additional data and/or functionality to cloud services. This suggests that when a healthcare organization takes the first step to implement and adopt cloud services, it is already considering expanding its use of cloud services.”
That being said, two things remain clear: healthcare is using cloud today, and it appears that trend will continue. Only time will tell how applications of this technology continue to develop, but it’s evident that the cloud will leave an indelible mark on how we administer and receive healthcare services.