Cloud Brings Benefits to Health-Care Industry

By: Patrick Burke

Patrick Burke is a writer and editor based in the greater New York area and occasionally blogs for Rackspace Hosting.

Researchers are increasingly relying on cloud computing to discover new drugs and medical treatments, which is often less expensive and speedier than in-house computing.

According to Forrester Research, cloud computing continues to gain wide appeal in the drug industry and also within health-care institutions.

“Nearly every pharmaceutical company we speak to, at least in the [research and development] part of their business, is doing this,” said Forrester Research analyst James Staten. “Given the economic change that this creates for them, it’s extremely attractive.”

One of the prime benefits of relying on the cloud for research is when information is stored in the cloud, it eases the collaboration efforts of researchers.

Dr. Stephen Friend, president of nonprofit Sage Bionetworks, says that even rival pharmaceutical firms have an incentive to share ideas and information.

“They’re trying to develop their drugs for lower cost, and so pharmaceutical companies love the de-risking that occurs by having much of the data be available for everyone to look at,” Friend said, according to NPR.org.

One healthy result of medical research getting powered by cloud: Consumers are reaping the direct. Forrester’s Staten points to Pathwork Diagnostics, which has deposited a vast amount of information about cancer tissue in the cloud to speed up diagnoses.

“If a new tissue sample is submitted to them from a doctor who doesn’t know what kind of cancer it is, they can put that single sample into their database on the cloud and, within less than a day, come back with a high-probability diagnosis of what kind of cancer that tissue sample is,” Staten said.

Cloud computing also offers significant benefits to doctors’ clinics, hospitals and health clinics requiring quick access to computing and large storage facilities, which are not provided in traditional settings.

Because health-care data often needs to be shared across various settings and geographies, it places an additional burden on both health-care provider and the patient.

Cloud provides the health-care organizations an opportunity to improve services to their patients by having the ability to share information more easily than ever before and improve operational efficiency.

Cloud hosting also helps reduce staffing needs. Hospitals and physician practices that switch to cloud computing no longer need to hire additional staff to manage computerized patient records, as the cloud provider takes care of this, which helps save money.

Another benefit is the cloud provides better disaster recovery. If a health care organization loses records in a fire, earthquake or other disaster, it’s easy to retrieve and rebuild records stored in the cloud. Rebuilding from physical copies stored on-premise may not be possible.