Apps Will Drive Healthcare Cloud Expansion

Posted on January 7, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Right now, only a small percentage of the healthcare industry is making use of cloud technology, largely due to security concerns.  But as the number of applications available in the cloud continue to expand, and vendors do more to meet  healthcare’s specific security needs, providers are getting more comfortable with the idea of using the cloud.

While I mined the following information from a cloud vendor’s blog, I still think it’s pretty credible, so I wanted to share it with you readers and see what you think.

According to a report from cloud vendor CenterBeam, drawing on data from research firm MarketsandMarkets, only 4 percent of the healthcare community used cloud technology in 2011.  However, MarketsandMarkets projects that the cloud use in healthcare would hit $5.4 billion by 2017, the story says.

I might have dismissed that as hyberbole, as the cloud seems to be more about talk than action so far, but then CenterBeam had me hooked.

Apparently, MarketsandMarkets has found that there’s a growing list of applications available on the cloud which weren’t there previously. We’re talking not only about EMRs, but also order entry and software for imaging and pharmacy uses, as well as non-clinical applications for billing, cycle management and claims management. It’s a big step forward.

Will all of this explode in 2013?  I doubt it, given how busy providers are with the EMR applications they’ve got, ICD-10, Meaningful Use and the usual string of IT operational issues to boot.

That being said, when it comes down to it, applications are what drive a new technology, not abstract capabilities which merely sound good.  After all, these days, who’d care about the iPhone without apps? And along those lines, why would providers risk mingling their data with others’ on the cloud unless they saw a real financial and practical upside? New healthcare apps offer that upside.

So with new, hopefully mature health IT applications appearing on the cloud, we may see that expansion that everyone’s been talking about for years now.  It should be quite interesting to watch.