Cloud computing is becoming more and more integral in today’s healthcare environment. Over half of all healthcare organizations use the cloud for mission-critical applications, including the storage of private, sensitive information and for data transfers. By 2020, the healthcare cloud computing market will be worth $9.5 billion, following a growth surge of 20.5 percent over the next three years. Here’s a look at how cloud computing is being applied to benefit the healthcare industry.
The need for effective disaster recovery and data storage plans are the two biggest drivers behind healthcare cloud adoption, a TechTarget survey found. With the explosion of electronic healthcare records, medical institutions are overwhelmed with terabytes of data. Rapid access to this data is imperative for delivering effective patient care when hours and minutes may be a life-or-death matter — and when downtime may cost millions of dollars in lost paperwork and lawsuits. In other words, lost data is unacceptable.
But storing all this data creates an inviting target for identity thieves, putting both patients and hospitals at risk. Last year, Advocate Health Network paid a record $5.5 million settlement to the Department of Health and Human Services over a data breach that compromised millions of patient’s personal and financial information.
Healthcare institutions are turning to the cloud as the ideal solution for these issues. Enterprise cloud backup solutions like Mozy can store massive amounts of data better than any on-premises data centers, while protecting the information behind military-grade encryption.
Healthcare providers are also turning to the cloud to provide evidence-based medical care based on real-time data. The cloud’s scalable storage capability and dedicated allocation of server functionality allows for large amounts of data to be processed at greater speed, allowing providers the ability to instantaneously analyze this information from large samples of patients.
By enabling healthcare providers to store and process large volumes of data, the cloud increases the ability of healthcare providers to collaborate more effectively. For instance, Apple has partnered with IBM’s Watson health unit in order to provide researchers with a database based on information from mobile users of health and fitness tracking apps.
Apple and IBM’s ResearchKit and HealthKit projects are helping researchers gain a better understanding of diseases. The information is then put to practical use to develop apps to assist patients who use mobile devices. For instance, the Autism & Beyond app uses iPhone cameras to study the faces of young children in order to diagnose autism more early.
Harnessing the cloud to mobile devices is also helping extend healthcare's reach to more remote patients. Boston’s Center for Connected Health, for example, sends text message reminders to pregnant mothers — based on the baby’s due date — to schedule an ultrasound appointment or count kicks.
Another use of mobile healthcare is through the delivery of telehealth services to patients in urban or rural areas where healthcare access is limited. For example, the University of Arkansas ANGELS program helps prevent low-birth weight by delivering telemedicine to pregnant women in underserviced rural areas.