Healthcare Finally Embracing Cloud in Real Numbers

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The time for the healthcare industry to embrace cloud computing has been long. But it’s finally here, according to a recent survey conducted around HIMSS18 (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) of Members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.

The survey didn’t focus on cloud platforms, or software-as-a-service providers but on cloud storage. Cloud storage can provide healthcare all of the benefits that it has provided virtually every other vertical market: cost savings, improved access to data, enhanced collaboration, and increased security for smaller providers who lack the ability to hire or retain skilled cybersecurity staff.

According to the survey, conducted by compliance platform provider Datica, 80 percent of respondents said that cloud hosting is in the top 20 priorities within their organizations. Just a few years ago that number would have been cut in half in most surveys I have read. There just wasn’t a lot of trust in these organizations that they could make the move, even if regulators allowed them.

The survey also found that only 30 percent of healthcare organizations have a strategy in place for their cloud data migration. No surprise there, as it shows just how early most of these organizations are in their plans.

Interestingly 20 percent of the executives surveyed said that cloud storage of their data was not a priority right now. Why? The big three we always hear: regulatory compliance, security, and privacy.

In fact, security remains the biggest concern for healthcare organizations moving to the cloud.  About half of organizations in the Datica survey said it was their main concern. “Given the regulatory landscape and the sensitivity of protected health information, it’s not surprising that security is a top concern. As cloud hosting becomes a more viable option, new tools are emerging to give healthcare organizations greater control over their data, which will help dissipate concerns about data security,” Datica’s Marcia Noyes wrote in her blog post.

I agree, and I think the maturity around cloud security technologies is one of the reasons why so many healthcare companies have come around.

What did surprise me is that so many respondents don’t see clear business value in storing data in the cloud. A sizable 40 percent of the executives seemed to be lost — stuck in a Sunk Cost Fallacy regarding their existing technology, or they did not have a vision in how their organization could leverage cloud.

According to the survey, those that did move to cloud are enjoying benefits: 32 percent are building machine learning applications and 45 percent are creating applications to improve population health.

Finally, when it comes to cloud about 20 percent of surveyed healthcare organizations are waist deep already. They are hosting 50 percent or more of their software infrastructure. Another 14 percent said that figure is about 25 percent of their infrastructure.

It’s great to see healthcare organizations finally coming around to cloud computing in a significant way. This was made possible by the maturing of the cloud storage services themselves, the tools that are now available to secure these services, the regulatory compliance auditor’s understanding of these services, and the skills becoming more broadly available to manage and secure these environments.