Oh Canada! Microsoft announces your cloud and that’s healthy news

imageYesterday, Microsoft announced plans to deliver commercial cloud services from Canada. That means, in 2016, the company will deliver Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online from data centers located in Ontario and Quebec. So why am I bringing this to your attention here on HealthBlog?

Over the span of 13 years at Microsoft, I’ve been right on predicting a lot of health industry tech trends. I’ve also been wrong on a few. On the wrong side of things, I didn’t predict how quickly hospitals, clinics and health systems would move to cloud services.

Coming from the health industry, as a physician and healthcare executive, I know all-too-well that healthcare marches to a different, more conservative drummer than many other industries. So, when our executives here at Microsoft started talking about IT moving to the cloud, I believed it would be slower going in healthcare than it would be for other industry sectors. Boy, was I wrong. Once we could assure our healthcare customers that our cloud services were buttoned up on the compliance, security and regulatory issues one needs to address to do business in healthcare, our customers around the world started flocking to the cloud.

imageThe reasons for the accelerating migration to cloud services in healthcare are the same as for other industries—cloud services are more flexible, scalable, and generally less expensive than maintaining your own hospital, clinic or health system data centers. This is especially true for “commodity” services like e-mail, file and storage. Information Technology resources are always constrained in healthcare because IT isn’t a core competency for most healthcare providers. Their core competency is patient care, and ideally scarce IT resources should be directed primarily to improving patient care.  

That being said, and the economic case for moving services to the cloud being stated, there are still things that slow adoption in a field like healthcare. One of those can be regulatory issues around the “residency” of data. In some circumstances and for certain types of data, there may be requirements that the data must “reside” within the borders of the country of origin. Such is sometimes the case with healthcare data. So, if a cloud service provider doesn’t have a data center within the borders of the country in question, it becomes more challenging for those who want to take advantage of the flexibility, scalability and savings that cloud services provide.

WEB13_Rose_Brandon_058For our healthcare customers, the new data centers in Canada couldn’t come at a better time. According to IDC, total public cloud spend in Canada is projected to grow to $2.5B by next year. The fastest growth will be from Public cloud infrastructure with a strong 45 per cent increase by 2016. And now, with Microsoft data centers soon operating in Canada, I predict that the time will be right for many more of our public and private health industry customers in Canada to move to the cloud. That’s healthy news for an industry that is increasingly looking at ways to save resources while providing better care to patients.

You can learn more about yesterday’s announcement and what it means to businesses across Canada by visiting http://reimagine.microsoft.ca/en-ca/

Bill Crounse, MD     Senior Director, Worldwide Health      Microsoft

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