Healthcare News & Insights

Why cloud will be health care’s hero in 2018

Cloud computing is here and thriving, and it will ultimately serve an integral role in health care’s digital transformation in the coming year and beyond. In this guest post, Shahzad Ahmad, VP of cloud operations & delivery for a global healthcare leader in identity management, offers six ways the cloud will benefit health care in 2018.


Many industries – not just health care – have experienced trepidation in shifting from on-premises solutions to the cloud. Resistance to change and new technology is to be expected, and health care has had its fair share of that. However, over the past several years, we’ve seen our own lives transformed by the cloud in a very tactile way, especially through ubiquitous use of smartphones. With device-based medicine growing more mainstream and patients becoming aggregators of their data, health care is entering an era of modernization, one that is a data-driven, consumer-based and mission-based.

As healthcare providers look to maximize efficiency and meet the demands of value-based care, the cloud will continue to be embraced exponentially. With the added benefits of lower operating costs, improved security and high availability, cloud enables considerable opportunities for cross-platform integration and interoperability, as well as democratization of data across new analytical sources, including social determinants, genomics and biometrics.

6 ways the cloud will be health care’s hero in 2018:

  1. Healthcare consolidation – The proliferation of hospital and health system mergers and acquisitions (M&As) continues to yield substantial volumes of medical data and systems integrations. According to a new Kaufman Hall report, healthcare consolidation hit an all-time high in 2017, with 115 deals totaling $63.2 billion. The cloud offers rapid integration and storage of patient data and historical information, including medical imaging. Cloud-based applications help to orchestrate fragmented information across disparate systems and sites of care, and quickly and effectively combine data into a usable format by the enterprise.
  2. Security and compliance – Since cloud service providers must ensure data is encrypted, backed up, easily recoverable and secured with strict role based access, healthcare organizations are discovering that cloud-based applications are more secure and sophisticated than on-premises. Notable cloud platform providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, offer healthcare specific services which are governed by HIPAA and HITECH. A good software as a service (SaaS) offering that’s built on mature platforms further ensures all protected health information (PHI) is stored and handled in accordance with their business associate agreements (BAA). In addition to the state privacy and compliance laws, security vulnerability scanning and 24/7 monitoring for unwanted network access have also become basic requirements for cloud in health care. It would be prudent to note that while cloud vendors and SaaS providers implement their security measures, healthcare organizations must ensure they have the right security architecture in place to keep PHI safe.
    When it comes to compliance, HIPAA modifications require significant changes in how data centers operate. Because healthcare organizations often transmit and access PHI data electronically, a HIPAA compliant cloud services provider will ensure they comply with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) privacy, security and breach notification rules.
  3. Lower total cost of ownership (TCO) – The complexity of operating a large health IT solution typically hampers the success of other IT initiatives, resulting in lower adoption for most organizations. Healthcare IT decision makers now look for fully-managed SaaS solutions to ensure each component of their program is fully resilient, always available and performant. On-premises solutions also require significant capital investment, whereas cloud-based solutions are generally available as a subscription model. Moving a healthcare application from on-premises to the cloud, however, requires more than a simple “lift and shift” migration approach. Since most legacy healthcare applications aren’t optimized for cloud, adopting a fully-managed solution ensures a hands-off operation with an always-on solution. This directly translates to increased business efficiencies, while lowering the technological and associated staffing costs.
  4. Care collaboration and Interoperability – Improvements in care quality, delivery and outcomes hinge on the collaboration and seamless communication of multiple providers. Cloud services enable multiple stakeholders to share information securely and easily across the network, enhancing the workflow capabilities of care teams and improving the patient experience. In health care, providers continue to be challenged by highly diverse data types and systems that lack bidirectional communication or share information effectively. Cloud computing can process massive amounts of structured and unstructured data to unlock meaningful analytical insights and easy integration into existing workflows to help stakeholders make timely, better informed decisions.
  5. Availability and protection – As more and more patient information is exchanged electronically and stored virtually, availability of the data becomes just as important as securing it. Cloud provides organizations flexible storage and disaster recovery benefits that extend beyond traditional implementations. Cloud-based offerings provide high availability and sustainable recovery time objectives (RTO), eliminating the vulnerability of data loss during unexpected events, including natural disasters and malware attacks, so valuable, highly-sensitive patient data is available 24/7.
  6. Facilitate research, support analytics and population health – If there’s one area poised to truly revolutionize healthcare it’s genomics – the branch of molecular biology concerned with the structure, function, evolution and mapping of genomes. There’s no infrastructure, other than the cloud, that’s capable of handling the massive amounts of data required for this ongoing and very important research.

Getting out of the traditional on-premises solutions and into the cloud will enable hospitals and health systems to better focus on primary goals: to provide value-based care, improve the patient experience and achieve better outcomes.

Shahzad Ahmad is VP of cloud operations & delivery for NextGate, a global healthcare leader in identity management.

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