Health Care Organizations Embrace the Cloud

Nearly half (46 percent) of all health care organizations surveyed cited better allocation of IT resources as the biggest benefit of cloud computing.

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The vast majority (96 percent) of midsize health care organizations surveyed are using or considering using cloud computing, according to a survey commissioned by Dell of 2,038 employees of midsize public and private organizations across 11 regions worldwide.

A significant number of health care respondents are using a private cloud (43 percent) or a hybrid cloud solution (43 percent), the study showed. The research also revealed the health care sector's confidence in the security of data stored in a private cloud environment, with 64 percent indicating that they are "very confident" that their data is protected.

"Many health care organizations are overwhelmed with just keeping the lights on when it comes to IT projects. Staying on top of regulatory requirements and day-to-day operations doesn't leave time for much else," Dr. Cliff Bleustein, head of Dell's global health care consulting services, told eWEEK. "That's where the cloud comes in, and I think we'll continue to see adoption rates climb—particularly with hybrid solutions—in 2015. This approach helps health care organizations reclaim resources from maintenance tasks and inefficient processes in order to fund much-needed innovation."

In addition, nearly half (46 percent) of all health care organizations surveyed cited better allocation of IT resources as the biggest benefit of cloud computing—a benefit that was followed closely by cost savings (39 percent).

"Cloud hosting facilitates access to data from any Internet-connected device, giving health care providers mobility without having to store data on vulnerable end-user devices," Dr. Bleustein said. "Forgoing on-site servers also frees up physician practices from the need to create and maintain hardware infrastructure, allowing them to focus on the clinical and business issues of implementing an EMR [electronic medical record], or any other clinical or business application."

Cloud technology also offers the flexibility to scale, letting you expand or contract your compute power and storage as needed so that you pay only for what you use—which means organizations can align expenses more closely with revenue, he explained.

The study also revealed that the top three IT priorities cited by health care respondents were making IT more cost-efficient, upgrading infrastructure and optimizing data centers.

"The complexity and difficulty of securing health care data is one of the major reasons that cloud hosting for EMRs and other medical applications has grown so quickly," Dr. Bleustein said. "A reliable health care cloud vendor will invest in the best and brightest security professionals and systems, spreading the cost over multiple tenants. In many ways, the cloud offers enhanced security for health care data, and that really levels the playing field for smaller and midsize providers."

The results for health care organizations mirror the study's overall findings in which nearly all IT decision-makers surveyed said their companies either use or plan to use cloud solutions.

Only 3 percent of respondents across all industries are not planning to leverage cloud solutions.

"At Dell we're seeing more of our health care customers using the cloud for hosted services and for archiving data that ultimately can be analyzed," Dr. Bleustein said. "Local infrastructure is still important, though, and many hospitals will find that a hybrid structure best meets their needs."

He explained there could be high-performance compute (HPC) requirements that could necessitate local infrastructure, including analyzing workloads, revenue, patient records and other data-intensive applications.

"Overall, the predominant trend will be to move as much compute as possible to a cloud environment that enables clinical data to be easily stored, analyzed and shared; protects privacy; and ultimately drives down capital costs," Dr. Bleustein noted.