Adoption of Cloud Intensifies in Imaging IT

Publication Date: 14/11/2022

Cranfield, UK, 14th November 2022 – Cloud continues to take top billing as a trend in imaging informatics and wider healthcare. Eighteen months on from publishing a dedicated topical report diving deeper into the adoption of cloud in imaging IT (May 2021), we summarise our latest findings on the topic below. Has the promise and momentum from COVID-19 for cloud adoption intensified? Or is cloud adoption hamstrung by impending economic headwinds, health provider organisational complexity and ethico-legal concern around patient data privacy?

Exploration and adoption of public cloud continues to intensify within select imaging IT markets. Typically driven by increased cyber-attacks across the healthcare ecosystem, market demand for cloud technology to support an ever-growing remote workforce and the need to connect a geographically dispersed provider network is increasing. Provider acceptance is growing with a greater number of use-cases, primarily observed in the US and select Western Europe markets, such as the UK. Activity to educate the market on cloud architecture and overall momentum has also become prevalent amongst hyperscalers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Google, and Oracle. The latter two, have recently made public moves in a hope of positioning themselves as a preferred cloud partner in healthcare; Google announced its Medical Imaging Suite, whilst Oracle acquired Cerner with the intention to create a national EHR (Electronic Health Record), in October and June 2022, respectively.

Despite the progression towards public cloud adoption, the availability of solutions at scale across markets remains a long-term ambition. Adoption remains concentrated to the academic and outpatient market, with the ‘meaty middle’ acute sector remaining reluctant to invest. The slower transition for larger providers can be tied to the significant investment many have made into their own data centres and architectures, limiting appetite to move to off-premise hosting. However, with increased risk and liability being placed on providers, could this sector begin to transition when contracts expire?

The Looming Threat of Cyber Attacks

The number of healthcare data breaches is markedly increasing, with the risk not only apparent amongst large healthcare systems or academic hospitals, but more so, smaller hospitals and outpatient providers. As a result, more providers are outsourcing infrastructure to a third-party and having data hosted in the cloud, removing the cost and time associated to maintaining updates and security across multiple systems and versions of software.

Risk of data breaches is also prevalent amongst technology providers, including EHR, cloud storage services and imaging IT vendors, as hackers look at alternative routes of securing patient data. In reaction to this, and the greater levels of due diligence in imaging IT RFPs when evaluating security, imaging IT vendors have responded with partnerships with specialist cyber security vendors, for example, Merative partnership with RackTop Systems and InsiteOne’s partnership with Censinet.

Cyber security is expected to become one of the leading drivers for cloud adoption short-term, not only in the US but globally. With the topic anticipated to be the centre of many imaging IT vendors’ cloud strategies presented at RSNA later this month, continuing the industry conversations observed at SIIM in June. For those vendors that cannot demonstrate heightened security protocols and reassure customers the safety of patient data, there is risk of being left behind by competitors.

Patient Care’s Transition Away from Acute Setting

Risk of security breaches also intensifies as the provider market evolves, with hospital networks no longer contained within four walls. In recent years, healthcare markets have witnessed growth in outsourcing image reading, whether that is to outpatient providers such as radiology reading groups, imaging centres or teleradiology providers. Alongside outsourcing, providers are undergoing aggressive consolidation, from hospitals acquiring imaging centres for example, but also the outpatient market consolidating amongst itself.

As the provider dynamic transitions, and becomes inherently more complex, the market will be driven towards advanced technology that will support the interoperability of data across the network. Public cloud infrastructure offers unique benefits to on-premises solutions within the ever-changing network, such as the scalability and elasticity for deploying rapidly after provider consolidation, and the central management of updates across the entire network.

Product releases from imaging IT vendors looking to target the outpatient market have emphasised the redesigned cloud-native platform, with examples observed from GE HealthCare, Change Healthcare and Sirona Medical. The availability of cloud-native solutions in the outpatient market are limited, thus, new entrants to the market are hoping to leverage the first-mover advantage to win share from incumbents. The investment in re-architecting legacy imaging IT platforms, does not only serve vendors well in the outpatient segment, but as patient care shifts further from the acute hospitals to emerging settings such as retail or the home, the need to integrate data through the patient care pathway will be critical – with public cloud increasingly viewed as a more suitable architecture.

Potential to Disrupt the Competitive Market

Cloud is undoubtably playing a central role within the imaging IT market, and this conclusion has not changed from our report published in May 2021. Although barriers remain in the adoption of cloud at scale in some markets, overall, the industry has taken positive strides in pushing forward and demonstrating a greater acceptance of adoption for the future.

As mature markets, such as the US, enter key replacement cycles, a vendor’s ability to leverage a strong cloud strategy will offer the opportunity to disrupt the competitive status quo; whether that is taking advantage of the first mover status or demonstrating a clear and detailed roadmap of investment towards cloud. Mid-sized “challenger” vendors, such as Visage Imaging and Sectra have already shown the growth potential that comes from cloud investment, winning deals and growing above the market average in saturated and mature markets. As RSNA fast approaches, with cloud advancements highly anticipated, will these vendors maintain the advantage or is the market catching up?

Despite the role that cloud plays within imaging IT, vendors also need to ensure investment in other trends such as enterprise imaging and the consolidation of multi-ologies, AI integration, as well as the flexibility of business models with a growing demand for SaaS and managed services. Therefore, to achieve success in the imaging IT market longer-term, a vendor’s strategy must not be confined only to cloud capability, but instead the ability to offer a provider flexibility in deployment, business model and breadth of platform.

About the Service

The Imaging IT Market Intelligence Service is an annual subscription that provides ongoing data, insights and analysis on the global opportunity for imaging IT. The Service blends primary data collected from in-depth interviews with healthcare professionals and technology vendors, to provide a balanced and objective view of the market.

About Signify Research

Signify Research is an independent supplier of market intelligence and consultancy to the global healthcare technology industry. Our major coverage areas are Healthcare IT, Medical Imaging and Digital Health. Our clients include technology vendors, healthcare providers and payers, management consultants and investors. Signify Research is headquartered in Cranfield, UK.

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