As healthcare organizations grapple with COVID-19 and cybersecurity threats and found the need for flexibility and scalability, they have accelerated the move to the “cloud,” where much of the data and information processing for hospitals and health systems has moved outside their walls to remote computing centers.
“Within the next three years, market leaders in the Healthcare Provider marketplace will have as much as 80% of your health information in the cloud,” said Vince Vickers, KPMG’s Healthcare Technology Leader. “And most unique to healthcare is that there is no other industry whose amount of data is growing as fast, and arguably, which has as much value.”
Vickers says the cost, flexibility and security of cloud computing provide advantages over having servers on site with the needs to tend to them.
Amazon, Google and Microsoft are the leaders in the field of cloud computing. Microsoft developed its own offering specifically for healthcare, a sector where just about every organization uses its software in some form with its ubiquitous Office platform, strong database structure and its customer relationship management (CRM) products.
Microsoft and KPMG have developed specialized intellectual property around architecture, governance, controls and security on the cloud that is aimed to quickly improve performance.
Cloud computing allows healthcare organizations to encrypt the information and scale their cloud use to specific needs, but also to apply analytics to visualize certain key performance measures in patient care. Measurements of quality, revenue cycle management, and total cost of care have become increasingly important for healthcare providers – and payers – to get a sense of what value is being delivered to the patient and what activities make the most sense in the delivery of care.
With the importance of data, healthcare faces its own set of struggles when it comes to cyber security. Federal authorities recently warned hospitals and health systems that they are at heightened risk for ransomware attacks, where hackers hijack IT systems in return for payment.
“Cloud providers’ ability to scale also positions them to apply monitoring and other sophisticated protection and detection capabilities typically better than what can be achieved within a heterogeneous hospital infrastructure,” said Carl Kriebel, managing director at KPMG specializing in healthcare cybersecurity services.
“Addressing security has served to overcome what was once the biggest objection among healthcare organizations to embrace cloud computing,” Vickers said.
“Given the criticality of clinical system up-time and the value of patient medical records, hospitals are a ripe target for hackers,” Kriebel said. “Hospitals had traditionally underinvested in security, have a multitude of online connections to target, and need the data stored to make life or death decisions.