January 13, 2011

Cloud Computing in Healthcare Moving Beyond Storage

Nicole Hemsoth

Due in part to complex regulatory and security concerns, cloud computing in healthcare has found most of its customer interest in storage. The need to retain patient data for long periods of time and the rising infrastructure costs to do so have driven the healthcare storage boom, but there might be more clouds on the horizon for healthcare as application development ramps up this year.

As Jeff Byers at CMIO stated, “compared with other industries, cloud-based clinical application development has been rather slow. However, as algorithms and computing power ramp up, healthcare providers are finding more choices and expanding capabilities among cloud apps.”

In “Cloud Computing and Clinical Apps: Beyond Storage” Byers discussed the rise in complex, data-intensive applications in healthcare, particularly for RNA sequencing. This computationally-intensive task took a great deal of time on in-house machines and was expensive, but as Jeffrey T. Leek from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore says, using the cloud to run a single RNA sequence takes about an hour and costs far less than $100.

Byers points to a number of examples of clinicians using the cloud to run a wide range of computationally or data-intensive jobs to streamline processes, speed time to results and lower overall costs. The other side to this, however, is of course the HITECH Act and the increasing layers of complexity that have been built into the regulatory environment.

Clinical institutions making use of cloud computing have a number of concerns to address before considering such a move, but as application development and clinician interest merge, the market might find ways to build more regulatory solutions into their products.

Full story at CMIO