Cloud computing was one of the biggest trends in 2016 across many industries — including healthcare. Demonstrating just how beneficial cloud-based systems can be, a Colorado-based data analytics initiative has revealed that it cut infrastructure spending by 60 percent and reduced reducing time spent preparing data for analytics by 50 percent — simply by moving from a legacy server to a cloud-based system.

Health Data Compass, a company which analyzes clinical data and allows that data to be accessed by different providers, made the move to the cloud in November. As an example of the benefits its customers have seen, the organization says that sifting out duplicate patient records held by two clients now takes 15 minutes, compared to eight hours under the previous system, which often crashed. “We were spending $1 million a year on basic maintenance, keeping the car running, but not going anywhere with it,” said Michael Ames, associate director at Health Data Compass.

Healthcare Industry Increasingly Reliant on Cloud Solutions

This example shows why the healthcare industry is transitioning to the cloud in a big way. Research from MarketsandMarkets published last year revealed that spending on cloud-based systems will skyrocket in the coming years, from $3.73 billion in 2015 to $9.5 billion by 2020. As the healthcare industry evolves, the use of cloud systems will move beyond just data storage. The industry is advancing more and more into data-heavy operations like DNA sequencing and AI-powered diagnosis, which means the demand for more computing power continues to grow.

A 2016 HIMSS Analytics Survey revealed that almost 60 percent of healthcare industry IT and leadership professionals are planning to use cloud solutions for big data analysis. Another use for these cloud systems will be virtual care — or telemedicine — which allows remote diagnosis, and is expected to explode in popularity in the coming years.

Security Threats Associated With the Cloud

For all the benefits of using cloud-based systems, there is one major risk of placing all your data in a remote server hooked up to the internet: Security. Hospitals were already a target for hackers looking to steal valuable, personal information, and the move to the cloud makes them even more attractive targets. According to a healthcare data breach study by Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation, “medical data is now being shared with many different types of entities in which many employees have access to patient records.”

Making the data available to more people obviously helps with a connected health system, but it also increases the potential for privacy breaches, and that is something all healthcare providers need to be aware of. Finding a way to balance security and efficiency will be key for healthcare companies as we move into 2017.

Cybersecurity is a critical issue for the healthcare industry. Learn how hospitals can develop a comprehensive security awareness program.