5 Fundamental Ways Cloud Computing Is Impacting Healthcare

25 October 2019

As the demand for secure, cost-effective access to information increases in healthcare, the cloud is proving to be more critical than ever. Indeed, the need for cloud-backed services is so strong that experts predict unprecedented growth in the cloud market over the coming years. Acumen Research and Consulting predicts a 14% annual growth over the next seven years, which could see the cloud market value top $40 billion by 2026.


A range of factors fuels this growth. New models of payment and widespread use of high-speed internet, for example, mean that the cloud has found even greater use in modern healthcare. Favorable regulation and the increased demand for regulatory adherence, meanwhile, continue to instill confidence in new healthcare technologies. The result is greater acceptance and faster adoption of cloud-related technologies. The biggest driver, however, is the impact of cloud on everyone involved. From patients to caregivers and even administrators, healthcare stakeholders are benefiting immensely from cloud services. The following are just a few examples of how the cloud has made life easier in various healthcare spaces.

  • Store more data and lower costs

The healthcare industry works with tremendous amounts of data. As much as 30% of the data stored worldwide originate from healthcare, according to NEJM Catalyst. A single patient can generate as much as 80 megabytes of data each year in the form of imaging and electronic medical records (EMRs). 

The even more significant challenge is that this data is critical for operations in healthcare. In most cases, some of the records have to be stored for many years for research, regulatory, and patient treatment purposes. 

Storing the shoves of information would be a nightmare without cloud computing. Many smaller facilities and some private practices can afford neither the hardware nor personnel required to maintain the data. Cloud computing not only gives these facilities the means to store every bit of the data collected but also significantly reduces the storage costs. Care facilities no longer have to worry about purchasing storage infrastructure or hiring large teams of storage experts because that task is “outsourced” to cloud providers. 

  • Improved collaboration

Successful delivery of healthcare services hinges on smooth collaboration. Everyone, from the patient to the physician needs to be on the same page at all times. Interdisciplinary (or interprofessional) collaboration is particularly important. Researchers have found that integrating services among key health providers is critical to delivering treatment, especially in decentralized healthcare systems with many levels of health workers. 

One research conducted by the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, for example, shows that healthcare teams function better where there’s a unified purpose, protocols, and procedures. Every professional involved must have access to communication channels that allow the teams to discuss patient results, share information, and discuss ways to improve performance.

And the cloud is one of the best solutions to persistent collaboration challenges. Cloud solutions such as enterprise messaging and video communication help improve workflow no matter the distance between collaborating care providers. Whether the physician is in the office, at home, or traveling, they can communicate with the nurse and even their patients effectively. 

  • Integrated healthcare

The proliferation of hospitals and health system mergers has already proven beneficial in recent times. According to a 2018 Kaufman Hall Report, healthcare consolidation hit an all-time high in 2017, with at least 115 deals struck in that year alone. This consolidation is a move in the right direction. It not only brings better services closer to patients but also reduces the cost of doing so.

Unfortunately, consolidation comes with one major drawback – integration challenges. When two hospitals merge, the data from the two institutions have to be consolidated too. Combining data from two formerly independent institutions can be a tough task. Often, these institutions utilize very different information systems that may not even be compatible. Also, the ever-growing volume of health records means that each entity is likely to come with tons of data. 

The good news is, cloud computing is playing a vital role in facilitating effortless mergers. Cloud solutions help to coordinate fragmented information across disparate systems and quickly combine data into usable formats a lot more easily.

  • Improved security and compliance

You also can’t overlook the enormous role cloud computing plays in maintaining data security and compliance in the healthcare industry. First and foremost, cloud providers must ensure that data passing through or stored in the cloud servers is encrypted, backed up, and retrievable. 

Furthermore, notable cloud providers such as Azure from Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) offer health facilities specific services regulated by HIPAA and HITECH, thus promoting Protected Health Information (PHI) goals. Even better, cloud providers also continually monitor health networks for vulnerabilities.

It’s also important to note that the top cloud providers operating in healthcare are accountable to HIPAA and other regulatory agencies. The recent HIPAA modifications, for example, require significant changes in how data centers operate. A HIPAA-compliant provider is expected to be fully in compliance with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) privacy requirements. 

  • Better analytics and research

Finally, cloud computing has also massively benefited healthcare analytics and research. As we’ve already mentioned, the healthcare industry generates huge amounts of data. Within these heaps of data is vital information that can help us solve pertinent challenges and unlock doors to new possibilities. Cloud computing gives us space to securely and cost-effectively store the data pending analytics. 

The same applies to research. Take an example of genomics, for instance. Genomics is considered one area poised to revolutionize healthcare truly. A branch of molecular biology, genomics involves the study of the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of genomes. Studying all these aspects of genomes, however, requires tons of data – managed with utmost care.

Cloud computing is the only infrastructure currently available that’s capable of handling the massive amounts of data for this research. 

Bottom Line

There are many other practical ways in which cloud computing is benefiting healthcare. The technology, for instance, reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO) and is playing a starring role in the implementation of AI and machine learning. 

NIX wants to help you roll out cloud computing in your facility or practice, so you too can start taking advantage of these benefits. Contact us today for a free consultation.