Microsoft touts cloud computing in healthcare as providers wait for better security

While acknowledging the myriad privacy and security concerns about cloud computing, a top Microsoft healthcare official is touting the technology as an affordable means of network maintenance, health information exchange and strengthening relationships between hospitals and referring physicians.

"Cloud computing promises enormous benefits for [the] healthcare world," Steve Aylward, Microsoft's U.S. general manager for health and life sciences, writes on the company's blog. "These could include improved patient care, better health for the overall populations providers serve and new delivery models that will make healthcare more efficient and effective. And cloud computing can help do all of this in a cost-effective way.

"Accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical home models will need to easily share information as well as offer more elastic pricing models than traditional licensed based offerings," Aylward adds. "That means that as demand increases, hospitals and other healthcare providers don't need to ramp their infrastructures up and down."

But many physicians remain unconvinced. Dr. Michael Lee, a pediatrician and director of clinical informatics for Massachusetts physician practice alliance Atrius Health, wants to see how information security in the cloud improves over the next five to 10 years before outsourcing much data storage. "The only cloud computing that we would contemplate at the moment is in the personal health record space, so that patients would own the dimension in the cloud in terms of where they want to store or access information," Lee tells InformationWeek.

"Security is a big issue and is one of our biggest concerns with cloud computing," agrees Dr. Richard U. Levine, president of ColumbiaDoctors, the faculty practice organization of Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

InformationWeek also cites a recent Ipsos Research study--commissioned by Microsoft--that raised many security-related concerns about cloud computing in healthcare. Although 49 percent of respondents say their organizations have used cloud services, nearly eight in 10 would have a more favorable view of the technology if networks were private rather than public. That's higher than in any other sector studied, the magazine reports.

To learn more:
- have a look at this InformationWeek story
- read Aylward's post on the Microsoft blog