Healthcare heads for the clouds

06 December, 2013

Market analyst firm Frost & Sullivan says the healthcare industry in Asia Pacific is embracing the full gamut of cloud provided services from infrastructure to software with great enthusiasm.

As a result, F&S is tipping the market to expand at a 'whopping' 22.3 per cent annually from its 2012 value of $ US 194 million until 2018. It predicts that cloud will be the single most important enabler of healthcare megatrends in the future.

"Healthcare is opening doors to cloud technologies all over the world," states F&S.

"And Asia-Pacific is in a hurry to explore innovative solutions that support patient-centric care through efficient capture and dissemination of medical and health information". Overall it concludes: "Cloud technologies will play a pivotal role in establishing the healthcare industry of the future."

F&S's findings were corroborated, at least in the short term, by another research firm, Kalorama Information. It put the value of the global healthcare cloud computing market (as opposed to Asia Pacific) at $US3.9b in 2013 and estimated a 21.1 per cent growth from 2012.

Kalorama states: "The push to adopt a higher level of IT in healthcare, growing government mandates, limitations in digital storage, staffing shortages and a lack of internal IT infrastructures in many countries have provided a great opportunity for the cloud to be implemented".

According to Kalorama's publisher, Bruce Carlson: "EMR [electronic medical records] is driving this market. Hospitals are building great systems for gathering electronic records, but they need solutions to store all of that data, and it can't be a new server wing that might compete with needed space for care."

According to Natasha Gulati, connected health industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan Asia-Pacific, healthcare providers are looking for reliable technology partners who can address their concerns over data privacy and security.

"While many healthcare IT vendors emphasise the enhanced security and back-up support provided by cloud technologies the message has not successfully reached hospital CIOs yet," Gulati said.

"This is why healthcare continues to invest in private clouds while other industries are rapidly moving to public or hybrid cloud models. Moreover, given the current pressures of rising costs and diminishing margins, healthcare CIOs are unable to justify the significant investment required for transitioning to a cloud environment."

Gulati said that F&S had identified three major industry transformations that would be catalysed by cloud solutions: healthcare industry vertical clouds; telehealth and remote patient monitoring; and the consumerisation of healthcare.

Healthcare industry vertical clouds are secure cloud environments that allow health information sharing amongst all healthcare stakeholders, thus delivering efficiencies at all stages of the value chain.

Particularly in developed countries, it's well known that rapidly ageing populations are driving the need for comprehensive and reliable monitoring technologies and services that will enable ageing people to remain in their own homes longer rather than imposing a burden on what is certain to become an overstretched healthcare system.

F&S says that cloud technologies provide the software and infrastructure required to share vital information over a distance, to enable real-time analysis of information gathered from remotely located systems so that critical physiological data can be captured by telemedicine and patient monitoring devices and actioned on the fly thus minimising the time taken to respond to critical incidents.