Cloud and healthcare IT

While many industries are reliant on information technology to deliver services and drive innovation, none is so deeply entwined in IT than healthcare.  Whether it’s federal government mandates to move towards fully electronic information processing, or the explosive growth of consumerized tools like tablets and smartphones, the healthcare industry both shapes, and is shaped by, the technology it uses.

As such, it should be no surprise that the potential impact of cloud computing is being felt, with mixed feelings, most acutely in this industry.

Cloud, as a platform, has been sometimes dismissed as nothing more than a new name for old technology.  That’s understandable – cloud doesn’t rely on anything especially new nor are the business models especially novel.  After all, companies have been delivering software services over the internet for some years.  However, simply examining the constituent parts of cloud misses the fact that cloud represents so much more than a lot of virtual servers accessed through a browser.  Cloud is as much the effect as it is the cause; it is both the technology and the way that the technology is being used.  Cloud may be made up familiar building blocks, but the end result is something radically new.

The chaotic cloud

The reason that cloud has such an impact is because it throws out the rulebook for the specification, selection and delivery of IT servers.  Cloud doesn’t just change the rules for the way that the healthcare industry will think about information technology – it potentially renders the very concept of a rulebook obsolete.

Cloud computing enables business units, groups, and even individual users to select and purchase IT services and resources in order to meet short term goals, and then to discard them when the need is no longer there.

Cloud delivery models change the way that everyone, potentially, operates within their own IT infrastructure, and puts the power firmly in the hands of the user of the IT service, rather than in the central IT function.  Vendors, seeing the opportunity to bypass the traditional (and time-consuming) central IT selection and purchasing processes are quickly retargeting their efforts directly on the end users of their services.  No wonder then, that cloud and chaotic are rapidly becoming synonymous.

Turning healthcare IT on its head

While the ability for users to find and purchase specific services to meet their needs is clearly a huge benefit in terms of responsiveness and alignment to business needs, this “organized chaos” is the very antithesis of good security.  And for an industry that handles so much sensitive information, any security impact is not something that can be lightly ignored.