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Reaching for the skies: Healthcare and cloud computing

Healthcare has traditionally been a late entrant in adopting new information technology innovation, and the Cloud is no exception. In terms of markets, the US has been a first mover in healthcare Cloud applications. The EU has spent a great deal of time and effort assessing its implications, above all on data privacy. Britain, however, may have taken the most significant steps to begin endorsing use of the Cloud in its healthcare system.

A utility in the making, the US in the lead

On the supply side, some Cloud computing vendors have developed their own end-to-end offerings. Others procure platforms and applications from third parties, and often outsource their infrastructure. This aggregation is again based on a heterogeneous mix of business models. Overall, the Cloud industry is clearly developing into a utility, like electricity, gas or water.
Healthcare Cloud computing has so far been principally a US phenomenon, driven by incentives and regulations for adopting electronic medical or health records. Topping the list here is ARRA (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) and HITECH (the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act), which mandate the adoption of electronic medical and health records. Alongside, regulations for switching over from ICD-9 to ICD-10 diagnostic codes also provide a window for hospitals and health practitioners to assess both the opportunities and challenges in Cloud computing.

On the other hand, one of the greatest challenges for ramping up the Cloud in Europe is the storage of data across borders, with yet-unclear ramifications on data privacy laws and regulations. Two of the most sensitive industries here are banking and healthcare.

The EU Commission and the Cloud

Small steps and giant leaps

At the other side of the equation is Britain. Since early 2012, it has steadily built and promoted the use of G-Cloud, an onshore State-owned Cloud infrastructure for public authorities, with access to pre-approved vendors via a Portal known as Cloudstore. In spite of the absence of dominant Cloud vendors such as Amazon and Google, as well as resistance from purchasing managers used to dealing with traditional suppliers, Britain shows that taking a well-planned plunge into new technology frontiers can both yield benefits and contain risks. Here, healthcare is right up on the front lines.


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