It's imperative for healthcare organizations to become more agile and reduce legacy equipment usage in order to respond effectively to new challenges. Cost-benefit analysis is always an important factor in the medical sector, as many initiatives and projects compete for further investment. Healthcare providers constantly strive to reduce existing costs so that funding can be reappropriated for other uses. The need to increase margins in IT investments is driving enterprise cloud adoption in the healthcare industry, according to market research firm Frost & Sullivan.

The healthcare industry has recently been on the receiving end of many IT advancements, designed to improve patient care in a more cost-effective fashion. These include Electronic Health Records and digital case management, as well as picture archiving and communication systems, radiology information systems and healthcare information systems, according to Frost & Sullivan. While these technologies all provide benefits for medical care on their own, integrating them into an agile new system can be difficult. It becomes especially hard for organizations that try to implement new systems over existing IT infrastructure and protocols. The objective is to consolidate data in one site, yet make it available at disparate locations.

Frost & Sullivan cited numerous benefits that enterprise-class cloud computing could offer healthcare providers, including better data storage and data loss prevention, simplified patient record management and enforcement of security standards when transmitting confidential information, especially in instances when information must be shared with an outside entity during an emergency.

"By using cloud computing, the expenditure on hardware and storage space would be cut down, as cloud storage can cost almost 10 times less than regular storage systems," said Frost & Sullivan analyst Raghuraman Madanagopal. "In addition, cloud storage implementation may result in a drastic readjustment of the amount spent on training resources to manage the storage systems."

How enterprise clouds mitigate security concerns
Worry over the data protection in the cloud is certainly warranted – patients don't want their medical histories exposed, and medical providers wouldn't want to contend with any of the various potential logistical, legal or reputation-based complications that can often accompany a data breach. However, maximizing security potential in the cloud can provide comprehensive protection for patient and facility information, Larry Ponemon, founder and chairman of the Ponemon Institute, told HeathITSecurity. It becomes a question of meeting standards and paying rigorous attention to any new technology or environment.

"The healthcare environment is an interesting one because there's so much transition going on right now with the government's meaningful use regulations," he said. "All of that is great from a cost efficiency and patient control standpoint, but it's an environment that has inherent insecurity."