Better health care through the cloud? Don't count on it

Few industries need the cloud as much as health care, but the technologically backward industry won't likely to rise to the occasion

Better health care through the cloud? Don't count on it
Credit: Thinkstock

According to market researcher Technavio, the global health care cloud computing market will grow more than 21 percent from 2017 to 2021. That may sound impressive, but it's actually the same growth rate as for all enterprises. I simply don't see health care making any exceptional attempt to move to the cloud.

The Technavio report essentially is lobbying the health care industry to jump into the cloud, so it can serve the rising demand for advanced and remote health care services. That's a legitimate reason for cloud adoption, but there are actually more compelling ones that should cause the health care industry to move more quickly to the cloud than at the overall enterprise average rate.

No matter what you think of the current political environment, health care regulations are likely to change. The market could become more open, and if so, health care payers and providers would benefit greatly from the ability to be agile and reduce the time to market. If the market became more regulated, those same companies would also benefit from greater cloud adoption because their greater agility would let them adapt more quickly. The cloud is a core capability in getting such technological agility.

The world of health care is very much underautomated, so it's very inefficient. That costs more money and makes it harder to adapt. Health care has been lumbering along for years when it comes to technology, with mandates such as electronic health records taking decades (they were mandated during the George W. Bush presidency) of effort (and still not done).

Now, we see new technologies such as telemetry systems, machine learning, and centralized massive storage of medical records for analytics purposes coming to an industry that still relies on faxing patient records. The general state of data management in health care is abysmal.

Clearly, cloud migration is essential to the efficiency, effectiveness, and adaptability of the health care industry. I can't think of an industry that can benefit more from cloud than health care. It should be an industry that is driving cloud growth, but it's not. Its history suggests it will continue to lag, not lead.

Yes, a few innovators will get a clue and take advantage of the cloud to make a real difference in efficiency and innovation. But I believe most of the health care industry will continue to malinger technologically, squandering the opportunity that the cloud presents.