2023: The Year of the Healthcare Cloud

Big changes loom on the horizon for the healthcare industry in 2023, particularly with regard to technology infrastructure and operations transformation.

The past year has been tough on hospitals and healthcare organizations still wrestling with persistent and profound disruption. Shifting payment models and care-delivery dynamics, ongoing staffing and supply-chain issues, security threats and evolving compliance requirements, inflationary shock and economic uncertainty — all are complicated by the pandemic’s lingering impact and its long tail of seemingly ceaseless challenges to day-to-day. – day functioning.

That the sector continues to function under such conditions is nothing short of heroic. And under such sustained pressures, a new level of tough-mindedness drives strident demand for increased capability and clear value on every cent of investment.

On the IT front, according to Forrester’s recent predictions, cloud technology will play an increasingly crucial role in meeting this demand. What is transpiring across industries is a pattern of cloud embrace, with organizations “on the lookout for dependable means to cut down on the cost of running their businesses while still maintaining their ability to scale and innovate according to demands…For businesses to achieve these feats simultaneously and attain greater efficiency…they will lower investment in legacy systems or come up with plans to retire them.”

The overall trend is not limited to healthcare, but its impact in the sector means that deep-seated intransigence on adopting new technologies is becoming viewed as an existential threat. Throwing dollars at increasingly archaic legacy architecture is now dangerously wasteful. As the CIO of a Florida hospital explained to Becker’s in late September, “We don’t view cloud service as a ‘nice to have’ or unnecessary expense, because the cost is still there whether it is a cloud service or pricey asset renewal of on-premise computer equipment. We are making seismic transitions away from on-premise equipment to cloud environments to lower our risk profile with better resiliency and availability.”

This type of tough-mindedness means that 2023 may finally be “The Year of the Healthcare Cloud” as strategies for future-proofing IT infrastructure take hold. Here are a few of my own predictions on how that will play out in specifics during the year ahead:

  • We’ll see considerable momentum where previously “off-limits” core healthcare applications, such as electronic health records (EHRs) and Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) or Vendor Neutral Archives (VNAs), begin wholesale migrations to public clouds, providing dramatically lower costs to providers while increasing security, reliability, and ability to scale.
  • Health Information Exchanges/Networks (HIEs/HINs) will pursue HITRUST certification en masse due to the ONC’s recent announcement about requirements for healthcare data exchange and becoming a Qualified Health Information Network (QHIN). And with costly healthcare cyberattacks on the rise, more healthcare payers have their eyes on HITRUST certification as a marker of strong security stance and for meeting HIPAA, FISMA, PCI, and FEDRAMP, and a multitude of other framework and compliance requirements.
  • Cybersecurity needs may also drive a big uptick in subscriptions to Managed Detection and Response (MDR) services in healthcare. Gartner forecasts that 50% of all companies will subscribe to an MDR service by 2025, and much of that adoption in healthcare could occur over the next year as public cloud providers like Microsoft Azure continue to build out attractive capabilities in security information and event management ( SIEM); security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR); and extended detection and response (XDR) technologies.
  • Managed-service providers (MSPs) in the healthcare space will be forced to level-up on demonstrating expertise. AWS, Azure, and Google all have established healthcare cloud services platforms, but the partnership ecosystems amongst them are becoming more rigorous. For example, in 2023, competition in the Microsoft Azure MSP space will temporarily decrease, as up to 40% of current Gold Partners will lose their status. The Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) was retired in October and replaced with the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program, featuring six new partner designations that are exponentially harder for MSPs to achieve and maintain.
  • Cloud-powered edge computing has matured and “a flurry of partnerships and edge computing initiatives” were a big highlight at this year’s AWS re:Invent in November. Economics drives innovation, and as a direct result, we’ll soon start to see a wider variety of home health devices that continuously collect and process health data, as well as new models for more-distributed care delivery and leveraging related real-time actionable insights to head-off emergency events with timely interventions.

While there doesn’t appear to be any indication that current stressors on the healthcare industry will abate as we roll into 2023, there has definitely been a shift in attitude when it comes to technology across the sector. The ability to adapt has proven paramount over the past few years and it is fundamentally reshaping healthcare IT. In 2023, that shape will increasingly form around the cloud.

Photo: sylendrahoode, Getty Images

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