The global market for healthcare cloud computing, which sat at roughly $26.8 billion in 2020, is projected to grow to $76.8 billion by 2026.
That said, while the potential for cloud computing to transform healthcare — even more so than it already has — is great, it isn’t without its obstacles. Why, then, should you consider employing the cloud in healthcare? And what can you do to address the challenges?
Use Cases and Benefits of Cloud Computing in Healthcare
Cloud solutions eliminate the need for expensive hardware, installation fee, and server costs. Given how much data healthcare providers need to store, manipulate, and access, this is a game-changer in terms of the expenses they will save.
Moreover, organizations only need to pay for what they’re actually using at a given time, meaning they won’t have to pay substantial fees for services they don’t use.
Any data or programs stored on the cloud can be accessed practically anywhere, at any time, as long as you have an internet connection. That means if you need to pull up patient data, collaborate on files, or otherwise look at or use information stored in a cloud-based location, you will be able to.
Before the cloud, sharing patient data was a tricky process, even involving the manual sending of records from hospital to facility to laboratory. When healthcare providers needed to access this critical information, important for providing optimal care, there was no easy, streamlined way to do so.
Cloud computing expedites this process. Now, providers can access and send electronic health records (EHRs) and other information via digital solutions, whether the patient is changing providers or needs to make their information available to different teams.
Another perk of cloud computing platforms is that they require little maintenance, especially compared with software that requires extensive installation. These tools are updated automatically by the providers who offer them, leading to less legwork on the healthcare team’s part.
Proliferation of Data and Analytics
Data and analytics are a critical part of the healthcare field—and cloud solutions give you plenty of it. This data can be used to make better, more informed decisions regarding patients, facilities, and healthcare plans in general.
Democratization of Healthcare Data
Before the cloud, how could patients access their own data? It involved a complex, often inefficient process. Thanks to the cloud, however, patients have greater access to information about themselves — empowering them to make decisions with regard to their own health.
Yes, cloud computing puts the power back in the hands of the patients themselves, giving them the ability to view information via portals, request refills of prescriptions, and otherwise understand their providers’ health plans.
Cloud-based platforms can grow and adjust depending on your needs. This is a huge benefit for healthcare providers, who accumulate enormous amounts of data and will often find themselves needing more storage space. Their scalability also means flexibility, in terms of both efficiency and payment models. You can expand or shrink— and pay accordingly — at practically any point, depending on the vendor’s pricing structures.
Increase in Telemedicine Capabilities
Telemedicine platforms have existed for years, but in light of the pandemic, their usage has grown significantly. These cloud-based platforms, such as Doxy.me and Updox, allow providers and patients to connect digitally — no in-person office visits required. They also offer features like HIPAA compliance, a must for healthcare.
Healthcare providers are responsible for safeguarding extraordinary amounts of sensitive patient data. With cybercrime, particularly data breaches, on the rise, there is some concern over whether the cloud can provide the necessary security and protection.
The fact is, cyberattacks can occur in cloud-based receptacles, servers, and elsewhere. That’s why you will need to implement measures that provide protections and limit risks to your data when considering implementing cloud computing measures at your organization.
Lack of Expertise
Cloud computing platforms demand specialized skill sets and expertise. This isn’t an insurmountable problem, however. Healthcare providers and organizations can’t necessarily rely on in-house professionals unless they have the requisite specializations. Instead, they may need to look elsewhere, such as outsourcing providers, who can help them meet their needs.
Cloud platforms are, for the most part, stable, assuming they have been built with this quality in mind. Still, they can experience downtime. Given that reliability is a must in the healthcare sector, you will need to have contingency plans in place in case problems do arise.
The Future of Healthcare and the Cloud
What’s on the horizon for healthcare and the cloud? Then benefits are clear, from greater accessibility to scalability to the democratization of healthcare data. And so far, we’ve seen healthcare providers and organizations adopt this solution at a massive scale.
In the future, however, we will need to dig deeper to find solutions for the challenges that persist, including finding talent in the cloud space, resolving security issues, and more. Fortunately, we are already making great strides toward a more secure and reliable cloud future, thanks to experts and cost-effective outsourcing channels that have emerged in the space.
According to a 2020 healthcare industry survey, two-thirds of respondents said there were no applications they wouldn’t consider hosting on the cloud. As remote healthcare options grow and more and more organizations recognize the cloud’s advantages, we will more than likely see that figure grow.