The global market for healthcare cloud computing will be worth almost $10 billion by 2021, Frost & Sullivan predicts. The volume of unstructured medical and health data generated outside of clinical settings is growing exponentially, and the need for such datasets is also increasing. Here are a few reasons why the cloud is conducive to healthcare:
- Easy sharing of patient information. Technology can provide medical assistance to doctors in the field, whether that’s in a remote area, to very contagious patients or in emergency relief operations through satellite communications. Healthcare information can be stored to the cloud and then retrieved from it, shared electronically across organizations within a geography, community or hospital system. Several cloud providers cater to this market, taking on the pivotal role of collecting and distributing medical information from and among many different organizations.
- Ensuring disaster recovery. Disaster recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) provides hospitals and patients reassurance that their data is retrievable even in the face of network outages, malicious attacks and physical disasters, such as floods or fires. Automatic backup to the cloud ensures that patient records are protected and can be found even if the hardware accessing it is destroyed. Healthcare providers that transmit electronic protected health information (ePHI) are regulated to have a disaster recovery plan so hospitals and patients have continuous availability of files. There are three types of DRaaS: “To-cloud DRaaS” copies data from a physical server onto the cloud for backup; “in-cloud DRaaS” stores data in one cloud and recovers it to another, separate cloud; and “from-cloud DRaaS” picks data off of the cloud and onto a physical server.
- Scalability. Cloud computing makes it easy for hospitals to increase storage on the fly. Because the servers are off premises, there are no space concerns. In terms of freeing up floor space, it’s a no-brainer. In addition, having all that processing power can be of tremendous research benefit. For example, scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Hospital, are using cloud hosting of massive amounts of data to crunch numbers on breast and ovarian cancers. Their mission is to data mine the more than 2,000 breast and ovarian tumor and germline DNA sequences. According to the hospital, of all the women with an inherited genetic risk of developing either cancer, germline mutations in either BRCA1 or 2 account for only half. Researchers are looking for the missing genetic links in those who do not carry a BRCA1/2 mutation.
- Security. Common wisdom used to be that on-premises data storage was more secure than off-premises. But the increasing number of cyber attacks on hospitals and health systems — and the steep penalties they face for HIPAA violations — is casting a more favorable light on the cloud in healthcare. Cloud companies can offer the robust type of security experts, firewalls, monitoring and protection that most healthcare facilities and hospitals just can’t afford. Many of the security features required for data protection are provided by cloud service providers, therefore relieving the healthcare organizations of tedious and complex security frameworks.