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Healthcare Cloud Spending To Ramp Up Over Next Few Years

Posted on October 4, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

For years, healthcare IT executives have wrestled with the idea of deploying cloud services, concerned that the cloud would not offer enough security for their data. However, a new study suggests that this trend is shifting direction.

A new study by market research firm MarketsandMarkets has concluded that the healthcare industry will invest $5.4 billion in cloud computing by 2017.  This year should see a particularly big change, with total healthcare cloud investment moving from 4 percent to 20.5 percent of the industry, according to an article in the Cloud Times.

The current US cloud market for healthcare is dominated by SaaS vendors such as CareCloud, Carestream Health and Merge Healthcare, according to MarketsandMarkets. These vendors are tapping into an overall cloud computing market which should grow at a combined annual growth rate of 20.5 percent between 2012 and 2017, the researchers say.

As the report notes, there are good reasons why healthcare IT leaders are taking a closer look at cloud computing. For example, the cloud offers easy access to high-performance computing and high-volume storage, access which would be very costly to duplicate with on-premise computing.

On the other hand, the MarketsandMarkets researchers admit, healthcare still has particularly stringent data security requirements, and a need for strict confidentiality, access control and long-term data storage. Cloud vendors will need to offer services and products which meet these unique needs, and just as importantly, change and adapt as regulatory requirements shift. And they’ll have to have an impeccable reputation.

That last item — the cloud vendor’s reputation — will play a major role in the coming shift to cloud-based deployments. If giants like AT&T, IBM and Verizon stay in the healthcare cloud business, which seems likely to me, then healthcare institutions will be able to admit that they’re engaged in cloud deployments without suffering a public black eye over potential security problems.

On the other hand, if the giants were to get cold feet, cloud adoption would probably slow substantially, and remain at the trickle it has been for several years. While vendors like Merge and Carestream may be doing well, I’d argue that the presence of the 2,000-pound gorilla vendors ultimately dictates whether a market thrives.

Android Security Risks May Outweigh Benefits

Posted on April 26, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Not long ago, my colleague John Lynn made a compelling pitch for the Android platform, arguing that it’s likely to take over healthcare eventually given its flexibility.  That flexibility stands in sharp contrast to Apple phones and tablets, which work quite elegantly but also impose rigid requirements on app developers.

That being said, however, there’s security risks associated with Android that might outweigh its advantages. The major carriers are doing little or nothing to upgrade and patch the Android versions on the phones they sell, leaving them open to security breaches.

The Android security problem is so egregious that the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint with the  Federal Trade Commission, asking the agency to investigate how AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile handle software updates on their phones.

In the complaint, the civil liberties group argues that the carriers have been engaging in “unfair and deceptive business practices” by failing to let customers know about well-known unpatched security flaws in the Android devices that they sell.

What makes things worse, the ACLU suggests, is that the carriers aren’t even offering consumers the option to update their phones.  Though Google has continued to fix flaws in the Android OS, these fixes aren’t being bundled and pushed out to the wireless carriers’ customers.  As the ACLU rightly notes, such behavior is unheard of in the world of desktop operating systems, where consumers regularly get updates from Apple and Microsoft.

In its complaint the ACLU argues that the carriers must either provide security updates to customers or allow them to get refunds on their devices and terminate their contracts without any penalty. It’s asking the FTC to force the carriers’ hand.

In the mean time, with healthcare requiring strict data security under HIPAA, one has to wonder whether hospitals and medical practices should be using Android devices at all (at least for their work).  Of course, clinicians who are accustomed to using their personal Android phones or tablets will be inconvenienced and probably fairly annoyed too.  But as things stand, hospital CIOs better be really careful about how they handle Android phones in the healthcare environment.

Wireless 2G, 3G and 4G for Healthcare Applications

Posted on October 19, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today I’m attending the Mobile Health Conference (mHealth) conference in Las Vegas. So far it’s been a pretty effective conference for me already. Although, I’ve gotten most of the value from the people and vendors I’ve met and talked with. Although, is that really any surprise at a conference. More about those meetings later.

In this morning’s keynote conversation, they had executives from T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint that spoke and then did a short panel discussion. I must admit that I’d hoped for more from the panel discussion and I probably would have rather just had the whole thing a panel discussion. With that said, the most interesting topic they discussed was the 2G, 3G, and 4G topic.

Of course, they didn’t really dig into the different wireless signals like I would have liked to see. However, the executive from T-mobile said both in his speech and in the panel discussion that they’re committed to supporting 2G for 10 more years. Then, he offered this whopper: that most mHealth applications work perfectly fine on 2G and don’t actually need the higher 3G and 4G speeds.

He’s actually right that most health applications do work fine on 2G. However, I can’t help but wonder if that’s a function of there just not being enough 3G and 4G coverage to make it reasonable for a company to make an app that will only work on those faster networks.

From what I’ve seen in the internet world, applications will grow to use whatever resources they are given. Plus, there’s some applications that never get built until they have the resources to make it a reasonable reality.

So, while it may be true that the health applications of today generally work well on 2G, it’s worth asking what applications would we have if 3G and 4G were more widely available? I think we’re getting close to the point that we’ll find out. I imagine most EMR software would be happy to use whatever bandwidth you give them. Not to mention it would improve the user experience.

A few other quick hits:
-The AT&T executive (I believed) argued that they’re getting 4G speeds with 3G technology. So, why should they move to 4G?
-The Sprint executive nailed it on the head when he said that time is the economy of today. Higher speeds and better applications will save people time and that’s valuable.
-I can’t help but wonder where Verizon is. 3 out of 4 isn’t bad though.