Health Care IT Industry Shies Away from Cloud Adoption: CDW

Privacy concerns may be keeping health care IT from adopting a comprehensive cloud computing roadmap, according to a new CDW report.

Although health care organizations have taken small steps toward using cloud-based applications, the industry has been slow to adopt a comprehensive cloud computing strategy, according to the new Cloud Computing Tracking Poll by IT services provider CDW.

For this survey, CDW interviewed 1,200 IT professionals in the health care, government and education markets. The goal of the study was to see to what extent companies are implementing cloud computing and what their challenges are.

Reasons for tentative cloud computing planning in health care involve concerns about data security, privacy and cloud management, according to David Cottingham, CDW's senior director of managed services.

"Certainly, HIPAA compliance and other regulatory requirements increase the financial risk of data breaches or loss to health care organizations well beyond the business risks common to all industries," Cottingham wrote in an email to eWEEK.

Of companies surveyed, 53 percent said their management doesn't trust data security in the cloud.

Although 84 percent of respondents are using various individual cloud applications, only 30 percent identify themselves as cloud users. In addition, only 28 percent of respondents anticipate spending more than one-quarter of their IT budget by 2016.

In fact, the CDW report predicts that at best only 42 percent of respondents' IT services and applications will eventually work in the cloud. CDW announced the results of its poll on May 26.

"The report simply observes a difference between an organization accepting highly selective, tactical use of one cloud application and establishing an IT roadmap that calls for more pervasive use of cloud infrastructure and services," Cottingham said.

By using cloud computing, organizations can consolidate their IT infrastructure and reduce IT energy costs while getting access to documents from anywhere, he said.

Health care organizations are using hosted applications for EHRs (electronic health records) as well as for practice or hospital management, yet these services fail to meet criteria by the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) to be considered "cloud services," Cottingham explained.

Among the cloud applications that health care organizations do use involve conferencing, collaboration, e-mail and online learning. Key cloud applications that health care organizations use are Microsoft Office LiveMeeting at 39 percent and WebEx at 34 percent. Of health care companies in the survey, 24 percent used Gmail, and only 12 percent used sales and marketing applications.

Among the cloud applications that health care organizations do use involve conferencing, collaboration, email and online learning. Of health care users polled, 39 percent ran Microsoft Office LiveMeeting and 34 percent used WebEx. Meanwhile, 24 percent of health care industry respondents were on Gmail, and only 12 percent used Salesforce cloud applications.

Health care organizations are also using cloud storage services and productivity suites, with 18 percent of health care firms surveyed using Google Docs.

Although health care companies have been slow to adopt public cloud applications, they are using private clouds, Cottingham said.

"In fact, 21 percent of health care respondents say their organizations have implemented automated, validated and fully supported private cloud infrastructure-putting that industry statistically neck-and-neck with the federal government and well ahead of all other industries we surveyed," he noted.

Meanwhile, 84 percent of cloud users cut IT costs by using applications in private cloud environments. With cloud software able to be scaled and used on demand, IT managers can charge cloud users accurately for these services. This "pay as you go" model limits spending on extra capacity or licenses, which has been an "Achilles' heel" for IT organizations, according to Cottingham.

CDW reported that 37 percent of health care companies maintain a written strategy for cloud computing, which puts them in the middle range of organizations that have taken this step. Of small businesses surveyed, 35 percent have a written strategy for cloud adoption, compared with 59 percent of large businesses, 41 percent of federal agencies, 29 percent of state and local governments, 29 percent of higher education institutions and 31 percent of K-12 schools.