Although regulatory and security concerns have held back the health care industry from widespread adoption of public clouds, the overall cloud computing market in health care will grow to $5.4 billion by 2017, according to a report by research firm MarketsandMarkets.
In 2011, 4 percent of the health care industry used cloud computing, but that number will jump to 20.5 percent a year, according to the July 2 report.
The company studied the health care IT cloud market for the period 2012-2017.
In the health care cloud market, no cloud provider holds more than a 5 percent share, according to the report. Health care cloud vendors include Agfa Healthcare, CareCloud, Dell, GE Healthcare and Merge Healthcare.
MarketsandMarkets divided the health care industry into clinical and nonclinical cloud use. Clinical applications consist of EHRs, physician order entry and software for imaging and pharmacy use, while nonclinical applications include revenue cycle management, patient billing and claims management.
Attempting to share EHRs among facilities in various geographic areas without the benefits of cloud storage could delay treatment of patients, according to MarketsandMarkets.
"The flip side of this advantage is that health care data has specific requirements such as security, confidentiality, availability to authorized users, traceability of access, reversibility of data and long-term preservation," the report stated.
Regulations such as the electronic health record guidelines on meaningful use and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) impeded health care adoption of public cloud systems, which are hosted by third parties, according to the report.
However, private clouds hosted in-house and hybrid models are poised for growth, the report said. Security and privacy concerns as well as a need to trace data have also slowed public cloud adoption in health care.
Like the MarketsandMarkets report, a 2011 Cloud Computing Tracking Poll by IT services provider CDW found that concerns about data security and privacy slowed cloud adoption in health care.
Problems in making IT systems interoperable have also delayed cloud computing growth in the health care industry, according to MarketsandMarketss.
"It's rarely a question of scale; it's always a question of pace," said Dr. Harry Greenspun, senior adviser for health care transformation and technology at the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.
"With so many things in health care, we're often slow to adopt new technologies with concerns over privacy and security, and the issue of not having the data where you are," Greenspun told eWEEK. "So we're going through the same kind growing pains that other industries have gone through related to the cloud but usually a little bit after they have."
North America is the largest adopter of cloud computing technology, the report stated.
A December 2011 survey by KLAS Research found that 55 percent of hospital executives interviewed had stored data in the cloud, according to FierceHealthIT. This data included clinical applications and email.
Cloud computing has become necessary in health care with the need to store radiology images in archiving and communication systems (PACS), Chris Witt, president and co-founder of Wake Technology Services, told eWEEK in a 2011 interview.
In addition, 71 percent of health care providers were deploying or planned to deploy cloud technology, KLAS reported. Despite this large percentage, many health care providers were uncertain what cloud computing is and how it can be used in health care, according to KLAS.
Health care organizations turn to cloud computing to save on the costs of storing hardware locally. The cloud holds big data sets for EHRs, radiology images and genomic data for clinical drug trials.
Dell has donated its cloud infrastructure to store data for pediatric cancer research. In another use case, the Colleagues In Care Global Health Network is employing IBM SmartCloud for Social Business to boost health care delivery in Haiti by connecting medical workers and volunteers to critical data.