As organizations continue to modernize, more are realizing the business benefits of adopting cloud technologies. Increasingly, healthcare providers are also following this trend. With the required transition from paper to electronic health records, physicians and insurers are utilizing the cloud and its superior storage and availability to improve enterprise functions.

Along with the simplicity of use that comes with the cloud, many groups are also making the transition because of its cost benefits. So many providers are switching, in fact, that the North American healthcare cloud market is expected to reach $6.5 billion by 2018. Valued at $1.75 million in 2013, the market is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of almost 30 percent, according to research by MarketsandMarkets.

Stronger fines push move to cloud
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act laws that have increased the severity of fines levied against organizations that compromise patient data have also fueled cloud adoption. 24 million patient records were breached between 2009 and the end of last year. Most often, healthcare providers allow data breaches to occur when devices containing patient information are lost or stolen. Moving data to the cloud eliminates the risk of a laptop or USB being misplaced.

"There's a recognition that cloud is probably going to be much more secure than you're ever going to be in your own shop, especially if it's not your core competency," Bill Fera, a principal at Ernst and Young, explained to InformationWeek.

Recently, Concentra Health Services settled fines with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of almost $2 million after they were found to have allowed a breach of sensitive patient information. The organization's security measures were found to be lacking when an unencrypted laptop containing health records and personal information was stolen.

Cloud frees time for patients
Another benefit of moving a practice's information to and enterprise cloud is that a third party takes over control of the organization's server, freeing up time better spent on patient care.

"I didn't want to spend all my time in IT fiddling with the server. Although, I love doing that, I knew I wouldn't have time," said Dr. Ken Johnson, whose practice recently partnered with a cloud services provider. "With cloud computing, all I need to know is I have a great redundant pipe running to the network. I don't need to have this massive infrastructure."