Real-World Data, Telemedicine Could Spark Explosion of Medical Cloud Computing

Ryan Black

As the importance of big data in healthcare grows, so too will the market for cloud computing services.

According to a new report from Frost & Sullivan, the global market for healthcare cloud computing could grow to over $10 billion by 2021, thanks to changes in healthcare practice that are generating exponential volumes of data.

Real-world data is expected to be one of the major drivers of medicine’s move to the cloud. The ability to generate massive amounts of data from disparate sources—wearables, studies, registries, electronic health records (EHRs), and insurance information–can be hugely beneficial in developing practices and improving outcomes. It can also be a burden to store.

The volume of such data sets is “growing exponentially,” according to Natasha Gulati, a Digital Health Research Manager for Frost & Sullivan. Those data sets, along with growing interest in openness and interoperability, “are creating a huge demand for vertically integrated cloud platforms that open the data to multiple stakeholders who are willing to share the risks and the rewards of shared data assets," she said in a statement.

Analytics and telemedicine are also data-intensive applications with a growing influence on healthcare.

Analytics, particularly those that leverage real-world data, require extensive computing power and storage space. Cloud storage not only enables their use, but it can allow remote access and input for teams working collaboratively across regions.

The new report notes that numerous telemedicine vendors already base their operations in the cloud, and providers are keen on investing in those services.

Other market drivers highlighted in the report include the stability of cloud computing in case of disasters, the ways that the cloud can allow healthcare providers to “streamline” their IT departments, and the rise of other medical focuses like precision medicine and value-based care that also require ample, stable data storage.

The Frost & Sullivan report says that the healthcare cloud market is segmented into 3 main sectors: platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Gulati spoke favorably of the PaaS approach for healthcare providers, many of whom are beginning to build their own applications to integrate with their EHR systems.

“[PaaS] offers greater control over custom apps developed by providers compared to [Saas], while it reduces the costs as well as data location and ownership concerns associated with Infrastructure as a Service [IaaS],” she said in the official statement. Healthcare companies, she says, are increasingly being asked to build custom mobile apps, both patient-facing and staff-facing, which makes PaaS cloud computing attractive.