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HIMSS Survey: Healthcare Warming Up to the Cloud

A new study by HIMSS Analytics reveals increasing prominence of cloud technology in the healthcare field. The results are presented in the 2014 HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey.

5 out of 6 providers use cloud

When the association polled management officials at healthcare providers last year about their use of cloud, the results show that the computing method is becoming standardly accepted: 5 in 6 (83%) said that they have cloud systems currently deployed. The most widely used form of cloud tech is software-as-a-service, which is now in use by 67% of the providers.

Adoption now and in the future – 92%

Although 83% already represents the vast majority of the industry, most of the remaining 17% (9%) are in a cloud planning stage. Only 6% said explicitly that they would not use cloud, while the remaining 2% were unsure.

In other words, “92% of healthcare providers now and in the future see the value of cloud services for their organizations,” Columbus explained.

Cloud service categories & reasons for adoption

Cloud-delivered software is the most commonly used technology, with providers using each category of cloud service as follows:

When asked why their companies use the cloud, healthcare executives cited three top reasons: bolstering their technological strength (48%), cutting costs (46%), and shortening application development windows (45%).

Types of applications & types of cloud

The society’s analysts were also interested in what types of computing tasks were being migrated to cloud. The top three responses were:

  • Real-time data processing for clinical apps – 44%
  • Health information exchange (HIPAA-compliant transfer of health data between providers, government offices, and data clearinghouses) – 39%
  • Backup & business continuity – 35%.

They also wanted to know the extent to which healthcare firms were using public clouds versus private ones. Most companies were leaning toward private cloud, with 37% using that model vs. 23% public deployments and 36% public/private hybrids. The issue of public and private is explored in greater detail below.

Use within the organization

Cloud is most prevalent as a solution for administrative (finance, operations, human resources, etc. ) and IT needs – with 73% of companies using the technology in each of those areas. Meanwhile, 52% of providers use cloud in clinical environments.

The survey responses also revealed that cloud is becoming more widely used throughout organizations, with 22% of companies using the computing model in six or more departments.

Public vs. private healthcare cloud

The issue of public vs. private architecture is critical since it’s a point of confusion for so many organizations. Understandably, healthcare companies are incredibly concerned with HIPAA regulations – no one wants to end up on the Department of Health and Human Services’ Wall of Shame for failing to achieve compliance.

How do public and private compare? According to Bill Hackenberger of HighCloud, “It is just as safe in the public cloud as most private clouds.” He adds that whichever type of environment you are in, your data should be “encrypted and protected so even if a hacker gets through a firewall, the underlying data is encrypted and the keys are managed in a separate location.”

While you may think that encryption is a no-brainer, many organizations don’t do it, including Anthem – which is one of the reasons the 2014-2015 breach of 80 million user records was so devastating. Of course, encryption isn’t everything, as firmly argued by Fred Trotter in The Health Care Blog/

Working with a healthcare cloud expert

Not all clouds are created equal. Cloud companies that provide services to a wide variety of industries lack deep expertise in healthcare regulations and compliance. Simply claiming to be HIPAA compliant isn’t enough, the result is unnecessary risk.

The ClearDATA HealthDATA™ Cloud Platform, the only cloud infrastructure built exclusively for healthcare and managed by a team of healthcare compliance, security and technology experts.