HIMSS 2024: The Evolution of Cloud and the Role of Education

Published 26/03/2024

Co-authored with Amy Thompson

Cranfield, UK, 26th March 2024 – The Signify Research team had the pleasure of attending HIMSS 2024 in Orlando. Conversations in imaging informatics varied, from renewed interest in VNAs and the potential of enterprise imaging, to evaluating how reporting will evolve short and mid-term, and most evidently – cloud adoption.

In many instances, this emphasised continued investment towards achieving iterative improvement in long-term imaging IT strategies. As such, there were no ground-breaking or surprising announcements, but instead a welcomed exploration into the detail of AI integration, cloud and interoperability.

Below, we’ll be delving into one of these key themes in depth, cloud. A full review of our key-takeaways from HIMSS 2024 can be found here.

Cloud Dominated HIMSS 2024

Given the provider IT team attendee list, it’s unsurprising that imaging IT vendors would take this opportunity to showcase recent updates to platform architecture. This was in stark contrast to RSNA, whereby cloud remained present but a competing trend against diagnostic radiology AI integration and a much greater emphasis on digital pathology and multi-speciality deployment.

Partnerships were in full force: Konica Minolta announced its new integration of the Exa Platform with AWS HealthImaging (AHI) alongside the available use of Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings from AWS; similarly, Philips noted an expansion of the existing AWS partnership into digital pathology. Interestingly from the public cloud hyperscaler perspective, the focus of the show was markedly split. Google Cloud Platform (GCP), for example, focused predominately on generative AI innovation, compared to AWS, which presented sessions on the booth across imaging IT, AI and generative AI.

This years’ show also had a significant presence from cybersecurity firms, with a dedicated stage within the showcase. The transition to cloud is closely tied to a provider’s evaluation of cyber security risk, and even more timely at HIMSS this year due to the recent high-profile crippling cyber-attacks in the US. Investment in cybersecurity is paramount to mitigating risk, even when leveraging public cloud. Although there is no questioning the investment and security credentials of the leading hyperscalers, often the risk lies in a provider’s connection to the cloud.

The Story of Cloud is Evolving

Beyond the iterative updates to imaging IT vendors, it was obvious that vendor offerings for cloud are evolving and demonstrating a new level of maturity, from the initial debate of “what is cloud-enabled versus cloud-native” to now delving further into the technical specifications that cloud deployment demands.

Across the imaging IT ecosystem, vendors are presenting various strategies. Whether that is a single-cloud partner strategy, whereby an imaging IT vendor selects a primary development partner and leverages cloud services to optimise performance and storage costs. Others are evaluating a cloud-agnostic strategy, instead of tying themselves to a single cloud provision, leveraging neutral technologies such as Kubernetes that will allow for a transferable product and performance independent of the cloud hosting partner.

Whilst the cloud market in healthcare remains in its infancy, with no clear market leader, both strategies have opportunities and challenges of which vendors will be evaluating. It’s important to note that despite the strategy chosen, imaging IT vendors promote flexibility in deployment, even with a single-cloud partner strategy, hosting in an alternative instance is viable, although the solution may be less-optimised based on specific services or technologies not being directly available on alternative cloud instances.

Additionally, some vendors have begun to leverage streaming technologies to improve performance of diagnostic solutions in the cloud; for example, AGFA HealthCare presented the differences between leveraging CPUs instead of GPUs – which is more common practice at present in the market.

Although the market is maturing, with most healthcare providers in the US evaluating cloud deployment as part of the procurement process, there still remains many questions unanswered, or questions with conflicting answers – fundamentally, understanding which cloud strategy is right for them? There can be significant confusion in the market, as noted above, there are different strategies pushed by vendors, all of which tout differing strengths and benefits. For vendors, it will be critical to present real-world use cases for their given cloud strategy, to provide evidence and ROI for leveraging the public cloud infrastructure. At present, the availability of case studies is limited, and in most instances prospective savings conceptual.

Vendors’ Role in Sustaining the Momentum of Cloud

Overcoming the obstacles of real-world evidence and market education is no easy feat, especially for an evolving technology such as cloud. However, both imaging IT and cloud vendors are developing economic models to help providers understand the financial opportunity of leveraging public cloud. Long-term cost forecast is increasingly undergone with vendors as the discussion of cloud progresses. Considerations such as hardware refresh cycles, M&A strategic outlook, procedural volumes increase alongside workforce shortages and outsourcing strategy, as well as technology strategies including AI and generative AI will impact the value a provider could realise with cloud.

The forecast models being utilised are continually involving as hyperscalers invest in additional services or compression techniques, for example to help improve the cost-effectiveness of storage and processing in the cloud. Similarly, imaging IT vendors are continuing to invest in a chosen cloud strategy and re-architect legacy IT systems. All of which, will influence the cost and the value of cloud. It’s important for vendors to remain as transparent as possible during this dynamic period as providers and vendors alike navigate the next couple of years.

Despite the moving target, it’s important that as an industry, vendors support communication of the benefits of challenges of cloud technology and help decipher what the different services, architecture types (agnostic versus single-cloud partner versus cloud-enabled) and technologies. Each provider remains on long deployment journey to the cloud, therefore it’s the role of technology vendors to educate and support stakeholders on key questions they should be evaluating to find the right strategy.
Emphasising this short-term will pay dividends longer-term as providers cloud strategies evolve and become more complex, especially as enterprise imaging reach extends, bringing into consideration digital pathology and storing whole slide imaging (WSI), additional ‘ology data from cardiology, surgery, or how best to deploy new technology such as diagnostic AI or rapidly emerging generative AI.

Related Research

Signify Research’s imaging IT service provides expert market intelligence and detailed insights across radiology IT, cardiology IT, and advanced visualisation IT, alongside operational workflow & business intelligence tools. Combining primary data collection and in-depth discussions with industry stakeholders, our thorough research approach yields credible quantitative and qualitative analysis, helping our customers make critical business decisions with confidence. Throughout the course of 2024, the imaging IT team will be further assessing developments in the market through its’ Imaging IT Market Intelligence Service.

About The Author

Amy joined Signify Research in 2020, and is now the Research Manager for Healthcare IT, focusing on imaging and clinical IT, AI in medical imaging and teleradiology.

About Signify Research

Signify Research provides healthtech market intelligence powered by data that you can trust. We blend insights collected from in-depth interviews with technology vendors and healthcare professionals with sales data reported to us by leading vendors to provide a complete and balanced view of the market trends. Our coverage areas are Medical Imaging, Clinical Care, Digital Health, Diagnostic and Lifesciences and Healthcare IT.

Clients worldwide rely on direct access to our expert Analysts for their opinions on the latest market trends and developments. Our market analysis reports and subscriptions provide data-driven insights which business leaders use to guide strategic decisions. We also offer custom research services for clients who need information that can’t be obtained from our off-the-shelf research products or who require market intelligence tailored to their specific needs.

More Information

To find out more:

E: enquiries@signifyresearch.net

T: +44 (0) 1234 986 111