A lot of buzz has been created over the last couple of years on the implications of cloud computing on business. Many industries have aggressively pursued cloud strategies and some of them are yielding phenomenal results. Most research firms say that Cloud is something that will shape the future of technology in days to come.
The Healthcare Industry has been slightly reluctant to adopt cloud and in many cases rightfully so. Regulatory norms and concerns about the safety of patient data are the two prime reasons why Healthcare organizations globally have not yet adopted cloud to the scale that other industries such as Telecom have. Further there is also confusion about the type of cloud- whether it should be a private cloud or a hybrid one.
In my experience with the Healthcare industry I have come to realize there are two aspects in which cloud adoption can be very useful.
For healthcare payers, the period of member enrollment is one aspect that requires maximum computing power. In the United States for example, this is the period from January to March. This is when the bulk of the members are enrolled on to health plans. The ability of the cloud to deliver flexible computing power and strategically aiding organizations to tap into additional resources, will become important. As the cloud does provide flexibility, I believe that most healthcare payers would adopt cloud in the future for member enrollment and this would ensure that they can ramp down to normal levels once the enrollment period is over.
This can be delivered through the business process as a service (BPaaS) system and reduces the need for idle computing power that a Healthcare payer Organization would pay for in the non-enrollment season.
This is also good for the organizations as it reduces administrative costs and will help them meet the required quota of medical loss ratio as mandated by the PPACA Act.
For Hospitals and other Care providers one of the biggest challenges is medical data storage, mostly in the form of X-Rays, Images and Charts. Currently most Hospitals have their own Picture Archival and Communication Systems (PACS) which they use for archiving these records. But the cost of storage is huge often running into billions of terabytes of records. Now this can be solved through storage-as-a-service utilizing the cloud. This way, most physicians can see the charts and the X-rays from any location through the internet.
There has been a lot riding on the cloud and both Microsoft and Google are investing heavily in the technology. But technology for the sake of it and without any specific implications is going to be counterproductive in the healthcare Industry. The two examples given above are but a small segment and I am sure there will be more areas in healthcare where cloud can be adopted in the future. The point to remember is that healthcare organizations are in the business of providing care, technology is just a medium that enables them to do so.
Instead of offering the cloud as a blanket solution to the health care industry, technology firms, must spend some time in understanding where or which aspects of cloud would be most useful to the health care industry and customize their offerings in that direction. Otherwise, cloud adoption for the health care industry would continue to remain low.