Health Care’s Reservations about Cloud Computing

“Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”
– Julius Caesar (100BC – 44 BC), legendary Roman general and statesman.

Some background on the above quote before I elaborate on the health care industry’s reservations about cloud computing:

Julius Caesar, as everyone knows, was one of the most powerful leaders in history. Even before he became emperor in all but name, he exhibited a strong sense of political shrewdness and the importance of perception. The following incident is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

In 63 BC Caesar was elected to the position of Pontifex Maximus, the chief priest of the Roman state religion, which came with an official residence on the Via Sacra. In 62 BC, Pompeia (his second wife) hosted the festival of the Bona Dea (“good goddess”), which no man was permitted to attend, in this house. However a young patrician named Publius Clodius Pulcher managed to gain admittance disguised as a woman, apparently for the purpose of seducing Pompeia. He was caught and prosecuted for sacrilege. Caesar gave no evidence against Clodius at his trial and he was acquitted. Nevertheless, Caesar divorced Pompeia, saying that “my wife ought not to be even under suspicion.

As is evidently clear, Pompeia was punished even when not proven guilty. Health care’s attitude towards cloud computing is somewhat similar. On the reputation that cloud computing is unreliable and insecure, health care has been reluctant to embrace this new technology that can revolutionize the sector.

However, we should be considerate to the opposite viewpoint as well. Health care often deals with critical situations, where even the remote possibility of failure is not an option. Considering that cloud computing has not covered itself in glory in recent times (See: Should You Be Concerned? A List of Recent Cloud Computing Failures – II), health care professionals may feel justified in going along with existing technology, even at higher costs and lower efficiencies. Also, along with the finance industry, health care considers consumer information to be of utmost importance, and even in this aspect, cloud computing has faced bad press.

These issues were expressed in a recent Cloud Computing Tracking Poll conducted by IT services provider CDW among 1,200 IT professionals in the health care, government and education markets. The poll revealed that while 84% of healthcare organizations are using at least one cloud-based application, only 30% consider themselves as cloud users and 53% said their management doesn’t trust data security in the cloud. In other words, in spite of being knowledgeable about the benefits of cloud computing, reservations remain.

According to David Cottingham, CDW’s senior director of managed services, “Many organizations are moving carefully — and selectively — into cloud computing, as well they should, because it represents a significant shift in how computing resources are provided and managed……The report simply observes a difference between an organization accepting highly selective, tactical use of one cloud application and establishing an IT roadmap that calls for more pervasive use of cloud infrastructure and services.”

However, cloud computing enthusiasts need not feel too disappointed. According to Cottingham, “21% of health care respondents say their organizations have implemented automated, validated and fully supported private cloud infrastructure–putting that industry statistically neck-and-neck with the federal government and well ahead of all other industries we surveyed.”

To put things into perspective, of all the industries surveyed, health care’s attitude towards cloud computing wasn’t too hostile. For example, 37% of health care companies maintain a written strategy for cloud computing compared to 35% for small businesses, 59% of large businesses, 41% of federal agencies, 29% of state and local governments, 29% of higher education institutions and 31% of K-12 schools.

In conclusion, it is my belief that health care may be a late adopter, but as the kinks in cloud computing are ironed out and costs rise with the growing ageing population in the US, the industry will warm to cloud computing.

By Sourya Biswas

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