Cloud Storage A Good Match For Healthcare

Cloud storage can provide transparent access to near limitless volumes of patient data. But doctors also need fast data retrieval.

George Crump

August 19, 2011

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Cloud storage has a role to play in many organizations. It can be used as part of the backup and archive processes and in some cases even used for primary storage. There are specific enterprise vertical markets however where cloud storage can be especially beneficial. The markets share a common need to be able to not only retain information but also retrieve that information.

A good example of this is the healthcare industry, potentially the most regulated industry in the world. This is also an industry that has seen a massive conversion to digital records. It is now commonplace to see doctors walking into patient rooms with iPads that provide them with complete access to a patient's history at their finger tips. They can see more patients per day while providing better care than ever.

All this digital information, though, needs to be stored and the per object size is growing rapidly as the detail and resolution of the data increases. There are of course legal requirements for healthcare organizations to retain all this data for at least five years, in most cases the life of the patient, and increasingly the life of the patient plus the life of their children. Translated: This industry is quickly heading toward a "keep it forever" reality. Something needs to change or the size of the healthcare organization's data center will be larger than its hospitals.

The other challenge that healthcare organizations face is that their retained information potentially has the highest likelihood of being needed again. Fortunately, most of us don't visit a hospital every week, but most of us will certainly visit one more than a few times during our lifetime. When we do the doctors are going to want to review our digital patient history. In most cases they will access that history as they are walking into your exam room. They don't have the time to pre-request that certain data be pre-loaded for them hours in advance.

The need to retain data forever, and also be able to quickly gain access to information that has not been needed for years, breaks the traditional archive-to-tape way of thinking. At the same time though, healthcare organizations cannot afford to make all of this data available on production or even secondary storage. The obstacle is not only the dollars to acquire the original storage systems, but also the dollars to maintain a storage platform that may grow by 1,000X in just a few decades.

As we will discuss in our upcoming webinar "Solving the Healthcare Storage Storm", a solution to this is leveraging a cloud storage provider to house the information of patients that are not under immediate care. When correctly integrated into the healthcare application suite, this can provide transparent access to near limitless volumes of patient data without the upfront and ongoing maintenance costs of on-premise storage. Enterprise cloud providers can provide this type of storage and do so securely.

The long retention, quick retrieval problem is not unique to healthcare. Any industry that has undergone a wide-sweeping conversion to digital records is going to have a similar challenge, especially when retained information has the potential to be mined for future opportunities for better organization responsiveness. Cloud storage may be the ideal solution to the long retain, quick retrieve problem.

Follow Storage Switzerland on Twitter

George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement.

About the Author(s)

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights