A recent report from MarketsandMarkets projects the North American healthcare cloud computing market will increase at a compound annual growth rate of almost 30 percent over the next four years, reaching a market value of $6.5 billion by 2018.

In 2013 the market was worth $1.7 billion, but many factors have increased recent adoption according to the report, such as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Other drivers include improved storage technologies and greater flexibility and scalability of data. MarketsandMarkets also credits healthcare cloud computing growth in part to the $19 billion in subsidies from the Obama administration meant to help doctors offices and hospitals transition to electronic health records.

Market grows as cloud use increases
A separate report by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society found that cloud services are currently being utilized by 80 percent of healthcare organizations, mostly in the form of software-as-a-service. The HIMSS study went on to say that the majority of healthcare providers already using cloud services have plans to continue doing so, and of the respondents who had not yet implemented a cloud solution, 66 percent plan to do so in the future. Of the participants with a cloud platform, three quarters employed either a private or hybrid infrastructure.

The HIMSS report discovered that healthcare organizations were most commonly using cloud based services to host clinical applications and data health information exchanges, as well as to back up information. More than 60 percent of respondents reported experiencing an improvement in both the technological capability and capacity of their systems after deploying a cloud solution. Additional cloud computing benefits were mentioned by survey participants, including increased employee productivity, cost effectiveness, streamlining of business processes and improved security.

When asked what was most important to them when implementing a cloud platform, respondents to the HIMSS survey most commonly answered that they were concerned about security and a provider's willingness to enter into a Business Associate Agreement, which is a requirement under the Health Insurance Portability and Availability Act. Almost 60 percent of participants listed those two concerns as most important. While these were the top issues for organizations thinking of implementing a cloud solution, companies with a focus on security and compliance have the most to gain from utilizing cloud services. The ability to digitize patient records and make them available to care providers across the country can greatly benefit these companies, while improving compliance and increasing security.