Cloud Computing & HIT

Cloud computing is Internet based computing that allows client computers to access shared resources, software, and information from servers on the web/cloud. In essence, cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than as a product where the access of these shared resources or services are provided as a utility over a network. This method of computing is similar to the shift that technology made in the early 1980s when the switch from mainframes to client/server set-ups was implemented. Through cloud computing, clients can utilize web-based tools or applications through a web browser just as if they were programs installed locally on their own computer. The term 'cloud' was coined as a metaphor for the Internet which originated from cloud figures representing telephone networks [1] , then later followed by depicting Internet infrastructures in computer network maps/diagrams [2] .

How It Works

There are a number of providers that offer cloud computing services that deliver application via the Internet, which are accessed through web browsers and desktop and mobile apps, while the business software and data are stored on servers in a remote location. At the foundation of cloud computing is a much broader concept of infrastructure convergence and shared services [3] . This type of data center environment allows enterprises to get their applications up and running at a much faster rate, with easier manageability and less maintenance, thus enabling IT to more rapidly adjust IT resources (such as servers, storage, and networking) to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business demand [4] [5] . Although this holds true, cloud computing will generate obvious challenges with all of the emerging opportunities for public health informatics. Among the challenges will be an escalation in the need for secure communications and storage, especially when public health data is collected and transmitted using a non-healthcare infrastructure.

Advantages of Cloud Computing in HIT


The cloud allows for health IT managers to avoid the costs of extra onsite storage and network infrastructure. In addition, it also allows for greater financial flexibility in health IT because the cloud model is based on a scalable, on demand system.


The central storage of data allows for increased IT responsiveness and efficiency. Disaster recovery is noted as being one of the key benefits of storing information on the cloud.


The centralized platform of the Cloud allows for health care providers to access vital patient data regardless of the original geographic location that their records were generated from.

Applications In Healthcare IT


OrthoNOW is a franchise of orthopedic urgent care clinics. A 2012 article by Healthcare Informaticsdiscussed OrthoNOW's plans to implement a cloud-based practice management technology solution through a company called Care Cloud [6] Its primary purpose will be for administrative tasks such as patient scheduling and billing. The CEO of OrthoNow predicts that the use of the system will eventually evolve into a more advanced form of data sharing among OrthoNOWs network of clinics as well as third party institutions such as insurance companies. The platform is designed to offer greater care efficiency to both the practice and its patients by minimizing redundancy in patient procedures and, therefore, the costs associated with them[7]


Fairview Health Services, a health network in Minnesota, has integrated a cloud-based communications system throughout its facilities[8] . The main feature of interest in its platform is its virtual video capabilities that physicians use to conduct virtual visits with patients (citation needed). The technology is primarily used by Fairview's call center. The communications that take place on this system are encrypted, which makes it complaint with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Some of the main qualities of Fairview's cloud-based tele-health system include:
  • It's ability to prioritize calls based on level of urgency
  • It's use in medication management, providing access to pharmacists who can assist patients with their medication routine
  • It's ability to provide physicians with instant access to translators to better deal with language barriers between the doctor and the patient

Future Trends in HIT

It has been projected by the Business Technology Roundtable that Healthcare IT spending on Cloud services would surpass one billion dollars in their August 2011 issue. That seems to be a realistic figure but could be projected to increase with all of the beneficial uses for cloud computing on the rise. Fore example, one of the of the most invaluable applications in Healthcare IT is the sharing of medical imaging through the use of cloud computing for the simple fact that it actually saves lives and reduces costs in an industry that is beset with cost overruns.
Government cloud computing is also another vertical sector that is growing quickly as governments need to make due with less revenue. Cities such as New York City have adopted cloud technology effectively for their citizens. Other applications include the implementation of Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems by small practice physicians and the ability to access public health information on devices such as PDAs, tablet PCs, and smarthpones. This data is collected and stored on servers so that consumers can access them from the cloud through a service provider. EHR systems can be implemented as a service on the Internet where physicians only pay for the resources they consume, therefore reducing vendor 'lock-ins'; overhead costs on additional hardware.


One specific example of cloud computing in healthcare IT is the development of LAIKA, the platform used by CCHIT to validate EMR solutions for certification [9] . Another example is Microsoft's HealthVault , which is their web-based platform that will be used to store and maintain health and fitness information. These are just a few examples and practical uses out of the many that are out there that take advantage of the use of cloud computing.



Cloud computing shares various characteristics with topics including:
  • Autonomic computing: computer systems capable of self-management.
  • Client-server model: computing that refers broadly to any distributed application that distinguishes between service providers (servers) and service requesters (clients).
  • Grid computing: form of distributed and parallel computing whereby a super and virtual computer is composed of a cluster of networked , loosely coupled computers acting in concert to perform very large tasks.
  • Mainframe computer: powerful computers used mainly by large organizations for critical applications, typically bulk data processing such as census, industry and consumer statistics, enterprise resource planning, and financial transaction processing.
  • Utility computing: packaging computer resources, such as computation and storage, as a metered service similar to a traditional public utility, such as electricity.
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P): Distributed architecture without the need for central coordination, with participants being at the same time both suppliers and consumers of resources (in contrast to the traditional client-server model).



  1. ^

    "Writing and Speaking"
  2. ^ "The Internet Cloud"
  3. ^

    Kerravala, Zeus, Yankee Group, "Migrating to the cloud is dependent on a converged infrastructure," Tech Target.
  4. ^ ^ Baburajan, Rajani, “The Rising Cloud Storage Market Opportunity Strengthens Vendors,” infoTECH
  5. ^ Oestreich, Ken, "Converged Infrastructure," CTO Forum
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  8. ^
  9. ^

    "Cloud Computing in Healthcare, A Presentation"