Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Adoption of Cloud-Based Services in Healthcare on the Rise

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

The use of cloud services by healthcare organizations is becoming commonplace and further growth is expected, according to a HIMSS Analytics report.

“The future of cloud services is positive, especially among those healthcare organizations that already use cloud services,” state the authors of the report. “Nearly all of the healthcare organizations presently using cloud services reported plans to expand use of cloud services in the future.”

Of the 150 respondents to the 2014 HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey, 83.0 percent report currently using cloud services, with nearly as many citing the hosting of applications (86%) as the most frequent use case followed closely disaster recover/backup (79.3%), hosting of primary data storage (78.7%), and hosting of archived data (77.3%).

Moving forward, healthcare organizations expect to look into similar service areas within the cloud. Most common among them is the use of cloud services for hosting archived data. The second and third most common areas are hosting of operational applications (31.5%) and data and backups and disaster recover (30.7%).

“In this context, the majority of healthcare organizations reported plans to transition additional data and/or functionality to cloud services,” the authors continue. “This suggests that when a healthcare organization takes the first step to implement and adopt cloud services, the healthcare organization is already considering expanding their use of cloud services as the healthcare organization gains confidence with hosting data and/or functionality in the cloud.”

Factoring heavily into evaluations of cloud service providers was liability and security. The HIPAA omnibus rule is likely the impetus behind nearly two-thirds of respondents citing the willingness to enter into business associate agreements (BAAs) as the leading factor. Concerns about the physical and technical security of cloud service providers and their data centers were neck and neck for the second most frequent factor in these evaluations (63.7%), coming in a few percentage points ahead of compliance with regulations and laws (60.5%). (For more on the health data privacy and security in the report, visit HealthITSecurity.com.)

As the findings demonstrate, healthcare organizations are not looking to hire additional staff to support their preparation efforts toward implementing cloud services. Less than ten percent of survey respondents (8.1%) were making hiring workforce members with relevant cloud experience part of their preparations. Similarly, just one-quarter of those surveyed (25.0%) worked to training their relevant staff members on cloud services and its architecture.

The changes healthcare organizations were making focused on their network infrastructure, namely the need to upgrade performance and monitoring capabilities. Nearly half of respondents reported undertaking this preparatory activity (49.2%). This work was followed by efforts to engage cloud service providers about the potential pros and cons of a cloud-based infrastructure (42.7%).

As it concerns the specific types of cloud services, healthcare organizations appear most comfortable with software as a service (SaaS; 47.1%), which was nearly triple the amount looking into infrastructure as a service (IaaS; 17.7%). Irrespective of the form these services might take, survey respondents believed that cloud services would be most instrumental in demonstrating value for their organizations concerning their technological capabilities or capacity (62.5%). Financial metrics was also cited by half of those surveyed.

Based on the findings, the healthcare industry is growing more comfortable with the cloud despite lingering concerns about health data privacy and security.





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