The healthcare cloud race heats up

Amazon, Google, Microsoft and more are competing for healthcare cloud market share as large and small health systems across the U.S. are eager to join the cloud.

Amazon Web Services held 40 percent of the healthcare cloud market in 2020, according to market research firm ResearchandMarkets, and announced high-profile deals in May with Boston-based Tufts Medicine and Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger. Tufts moved its Epic EHR infrastructure, including 3 million health accounts, to Amazon Web Services in 71 hours and created a digital ecosystem. Amazon now powers the health system's telehealth and virtual care services, and Tufts expects to save $2 million to $5 million annually from the move.

"The digital health landscape is ripe for disruption and advancement – and Tufts Medicine is leading the charge through the use of AWS," said Dr. Shafiq Rab, chief digital officer and chief information officer at Tufts Medicine, in a news release. "By undertaking the process of migrating more than 300 applications to AWS, we are providing a personalized, connected care experience for our patients, as well as a data-driven, modern clinical environment. This digital healthcare ecosystem will support a more efficient, equitable and insightful healthcare industry and deliver high-value patient outcomes."

Geisinger also selected Amazon as its strategic cloud provider and plans to transition its digital ecosystem of more than 400 applications to AWS. The system spent years researching cloud providers before signing with AWS and expects to save millions of dollars annually.

Coming in a distant second to Amazon is Microsoft Azure, which has 18 percent of the market, and Google Cloud has 12 percent market share. The other two notable players in the healthcare cloud market are IBM Cloud at 13 percent market share and Alibaba Cloud at 7 percent.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., teamed with Google in 2019 for innovation and cloud computing. The partners are developing Mayo Clinic Cloud on the Google Cloud platform and constructing an artificial intelligence factory to improve patient care and research discoveries. Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare, a 182-hospital health system, also signed on with Google in 2021.

The large and forward-looking health systems lined up with cloud providers years ago. Renton, Wash.-based Providence inked a multiyear strategic alliance with Microsoft in 2019 to modernize its IT infrastructure and adopt Azure.

Smaller companies are making inroads into the healthcare cloud market as well. Innovaccer, a healthcare cloud company, became the strategic cloud provider for Helena, Mont.-based St. Peter's Health earlier this year. The system aims to unify data from legacy EHRs to create an EHR-agnostic physician engagement tool and an AI-powered patient engagement tool.

The cloud is also creeping into small health systems and rural healthcare providers. Community Hospital Corporation recently implemented a completely cloud-based system for imaging at one of its hospitals with great results.

"We moved all of that infrastructure off-premises, and we stopped building a ton of servers and storage," said Brian Doerr, CIO of Community Hospital Corp., based in Plano, Texas. "We moved it 100 percent to the cloud, which allows us to deliver new, innovative services through that platform. We have new modalities that we're enabling, but we're minimizing the capital expense."

Chris Paravate, CIO of Northeast Georgia Health System based in Gainesville, is also excited about the potential of using the cloud to better coordinate care and services for patients.

"The move to a more contemporary platform will create a digital ecosystem that'll allow us to connect all of those social services into our overall healthcare delivery model in a way that doesn't cost an abundance of dollars," said Mr. Paravate. "The barrier in the past has been that it's too hard or would take too many resources to pull together. A cloud architecture allows us to be nimble and dynamic and scalable and really tune our technology delivery toward the different needs of each community we serve."

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