A study by the research firm MarketsandMarkets indicates that the healthcare cloud computing market is expected to grow to nearly $5.4 billion by 2017 and HIMSS Analytics predicts that by 2020 80% of healthcare information and patient data will be flowing through the cloud.
While the migration of patient records and other data to cloud computing may have been prompted by the HIPAA and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) mandate requiring all medical professionals with access to patient records to begin utilizing electronic medical and health records (EMR and HER) by 2015 or face penalties, we are seeing that those healthcare organizations that have embraced the cloud are experiencing many benefits.
The 2014 HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey found that 92% of healthcare providers now and in the future see the value of cloud services for their organizations. According to the study, the top three reasons for adopting a cloud solution include less cost than current IT maintenance, speed of deployment and solving the problem of not having enough internal staff and/or expertise to support on-premise alternatives.
The cloud migration process can be daunting for healthcare organizations faced with a ton of data to move, but considering these benefits, there is no time like the present to embrace the cloud.
1. Boost Security: For most healthcare providers, online medical records storage is the main reason for using cloud computing because the cloud makes it far easier to archive and use patient records and medical images. The security issue of moving to the cloud is a concern of the past with the recent HIPAA update that makes cloud service providers as liable for HIPAA compliance as the healthcare entities they serve. This includes ensuring that data is encrypted and securely backed up, verifying that data can be easily recovered and using permission-based data access.
2. Increase Storage Capability: Big data has become an overwhelming challenge for many healthcare organizations. Considering the ever-growing volume of patient data and the fact that healthcare service providers must generally keep records for at least six years, the likelihood of this overwhelming any on-site IT infrastructure is inevitable. The cloud allows providers to easily scale their cloud storage solution to meet their EMR/EHR load while saving money by minimizing in-house storage needs and even if something happens on-site, the data is still preserved.
3. Improved Access: With cloud computing solutions, patient information is readily available from various locations, allowing doctors to quickly and easily pull up medical records remotely. Through mobile devices, video conferencing and applications built specifically for healthcare organizations, the cloud speeds things up and allows better communication at a distance –making it easier for physicians to collaborate and offer care as a team. By keeping physicians connected with their patients and colleagues, their ability to provide high-level care to patients is improved.
In addition to improving access, increasing storage capability and boosting security, this new approach to storing data will reduce costs for patients, physician’s practices and medical organizations. According to a report by Healthcare Financial Management and depending on the scope and size of a healthcare organization, savings benefits of EMRs/EHRs can amount to upwards of $37 million over a five-year period.
By adopting cloud-computing solutions everyone wins: the patient doesn’t have to endure paying for the same test twice when they go to different doctors or specialists or if the test results are lost, physicians are able to submit prescriptions and refills electronically to pharmacies and physicians’ medical offices avoid paying for the on-site hardware infrastructure and maintenance costs of securely storing patient medical records.