Healthcare's cloud poised for a shakeup

Get ready for double digit growth
By Erin McCann
11:02 AM
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Healthcare industry: Get ready for some serious growth of the cloud market. Due in part to evolving regulatory and health IT landscapes, the cloud market is poised for a double digit growth phase, new analysis suggests. Don't be fooled, though. Some big time barriers remain and have ultimately stymied the industry's shift over to the cloud.
The new data, published by Frost and Sullivan, underscores serious growth slated for both the U.S. and European healthcare cloud market, with analysts projecting that average penetration rates over the next decade will increase anywhere from 10 to 30 percent. As the industry further invests in healthcare IT and government regulations are updated to make cloud solutions more cost efficient, the numbers will only increase, analysts say.  
As of 2013, the U.S. healthcare cloud market reached $903 million, and experts estimate it will hit $3.5 billion come 2020. 
"Government initiatives to optimize healthcare information exchanges have underlined the importance of synchronized real-time data management and personalized healthcare delivery, lending impetus to the healthcare cloud market in the US and Europe," said Frost & Sullivan Healthcare Research Analyst Shruthi Parakkal, in a press statement announcing data findings. "Operational efficiency, lower upfront costs, access to on-demand capacity, quick deployment and easier management of IT staff are the major advantages strengthening the case for managed healthcare services."
It does appear, in many areas at least, the cloud is finally taking off, with many industry stakeholders seeing it as the big game changer for an otherwise slow-to-innovate industry. 
Speaking at the 2014 Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit late October, Microsoft's Neil Jordan said the cloud ranks as the "No. 1 area" of interest for the tech giant, at least in healthcare space.  
"If there was ever any industry that needed the cloud, it's the health industry," he said. In terms of what Jordan would like to see over the next five years? "I would love to make the industry comfortable with cloud computing, and I can't wait five years."
Despite the promises the cloud brings, Frost and Sullivan data also highlight the challenges that have impeded advancement in many ways. And the industry needs to address these challenges before they are able to reap the full benefits of the cloud. Analysts, for one, point to security, performance and standardization issues that continue to impede market progress. Specifically, there's no standardization in legacy systems, which ultimately leads to costly and unwieldy data migration projects. 
Another barrier? There needs to be more answers around data preservation and portability, as it relates to a provider or cloud vendor suspending its cloud services and how it affects uptake. .
"Availability, scalability and reliability are the performance criteria used to benchmark a cloud solution," stated Parakkal. “Therefore, joining hands with industry experts to develop contracts between vendors and providers that clearly cover conditions on data access, retrieval and termination rights will accelerate the move to cloud solutions in the U.S."
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