Healthcare getting its head in the cloud, cautiously

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Nearly all mid-size healthcare organizations are using cloud computing or considering it, but almost two-thirds continue to have doubts about security.

That’s according to Dell, which drew from its global, multi-industry index of 2,038 respondents surveyed about technology adoption. The company reported Dec. 16 that 96 percent of the index’s healthcare cohort is in the cloud, while far fewer—64 percent—indicated they were “very confident” that their data is safe there.

imagingBiz asked Dell’s CMO, Cliff Bleustein, MD, what might explain the gap.

“The cloud is often a very broadly and loosely defined term,” he said. “And there are many different versions of cloud, between public cloud and the private cloud. So part of the gap that you’re seeing has to do with the differences between how people are defining the cloud and, probably, how they’re interpreting the question.”

Apart from ambiguity around definitions, legitimate concerns surely play a role in suppressing confidence in the cloud, Bleustein added.

“There are breaches that have occurred at many prominent organizations across the globe,” he pointed out. “And there continue to be targeted breaches that you hear about in the news, now almost every single day. So I think security should be a concern.”

Bleustein said that, from his observations, security is often not taken as seriously at the top of organizations as it ought to be. “It’s not uncommon for me to hear a CIO say that their CEO congratulated them that there wasn’t a breach over the course of the last year,” he said.

Dell reported in a news release that its survey also found:

  • A majority of healthcare respondents are using private cloud (43 percent) or a hybrid cloud solution (43 percent).
  • Nearly half of all healthcare organizations surveyed (46 percent) cite better allocation of IT resources as the biggest benefit of cloud computing. That benefit is followed closely by cost savings (39 percent).
  • The top three IT priorities cited by healthcare respondents were making IT more cost-efficient, upgrading infrastructure and optimizing data centers.

To this Bleustein added that, in organizations where the executive leadership is involved in security, confidence increases significantly. He said 84% of senior leaders who were fully or somewhat engaged said they were very confident in their organization’s data security, compared with only 43% of senior leaders in organizations that were not as confident.

“We know that security resources are primarily spent against hackers—43 percent,” he said. “And compliance with current regulations is at 37%. So again, some of this has to do with a [lack of focus] on some of the core competencies that we think are important for security.”

Noting that only 39% of respondents said that their workforce was fully aware of their organization’s own security rules, Bleustein said, “That, to us, is clearly a concern. And only 13% of those surveyed are using security to enable new things. So we think that there needs to be a focus on security. We’ve all seen the data around the breaches, and plans for the case of breach, but [people and organizations] are not as invested as you would hope.”

With its vast and commensurately costly storage needs, imaging is among the most popular uses of the cloud in healthcare. The global PACS and vendor neutral archive (VNA) market is expected to hit $3.48 billion by 2018, according to market research firm MarketsandMarkets, with the cloud-based slice of the pie “likely to capture a large share of the global PACS market sooner than expected,” according to Transparency Market Research.

Dell markets a cloud-based clinical archiving service that currently houses some 8.5 billion images, Bleustein said.

Dell did not specify the size of the healthcare cohort in its global technology-adoption index or define “mid-size” as applied to healthcare organizations.