The Cloud Market is Becoming Commoditized. Here's What That Means for High-Tech Companies Aiming to Disrupt Healthcare.
Cloud providers have the opportunity to revolutionize healthcare and make a huge profit.
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It seems like just a few years ago that the "cloud" threatened to disrupt everything about how we lived our lives, but already we're at the point where it's quickly becoming commoditized. There isn't much difference between Azure and AWS; customers pay for what they need, and the prices for most of the larger companies are comparable.
This lack of meaningful differentiation between cloud service providers means the whole concept of the cloud is shifting. It's no longer enough for cloud providers to try to set themselves apart with better availability or some new capability. Instead, the half dozen top players have almost identical offerings. So if cloud service itself isn't a disruptive technology anymore, what's the next big play?
Transactional support over the cloud
Healthcare is a very transaction-intensive industry; a single patient may have dozens of transactions associated with their care at every care encounter. All of these transactions add up to a very complex requirement, where lives are on the line. Unfortunately, the solutions up until this point have been legacy, cumbersome systems that healthcare providers license to use.
These systems have several flaws and disadvantages, but one of their main issues is that they don't play nicely with the cloud. For example, although a platform may work on AWS, it is not ideally built for it. The result is a disjointed and unwieldy healthcare system where providers and health insurance companies (payers) use different systems that merely get housed on cloud platforms. In other words, this complex web of legacy systems is just moved from data centers onto the cloud, creating a false sense of modernization.
All of this adds up to big money. Right now, healthcare companies are spending billions each year to license these systems because they're required to be so specific. The cloud service providers can provide periphery, ancillary transactional capabilities, but they can't provide the core foundational transactional needs. Healthcare companies need to go out and pay to get these needs met through new services or translate legacy systems to new systems.
While this may sound like a huge problem, it's actually an opportunity for tech companies that can solve the problem.
Related: The Data-Driven Future of Healthcare Is Everyone's Opportunity, and Everyone's Responsibility
The software as a service model
What's the solution to a legacy system where healthcare providers have to piece together disparate transactional platforms across multiple cloud providers? It might not be easy, but it starts with a software as a service (SaaS) model. So far, none of the big cloud providers have focused on providing a platform for payers and pharmacy benefit managers to manage the incredible number of transactions they process.
The cloud infrastructure isn't an end in and of itself, but rather the means to an end. Providing mission-critical software as a service could help healthcare companies manage their transactions while at the same time opening up new revenue streams that are virtually untapped at the moment. If vendors could provide mission-critical functions like operational, financial, risk, and compliance transactions using such advances as robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI), they could significantly reduce operational costs and avoidable medical costs, increase their profits and integrate into cloud providers. It's a win across the board.
Related: When Next-Generation Caregivers Meet New Technology
Building platforms across cloud providers
The healthcare industry's current problem is a potential goldmine for high-tech companies. The commoditization of the cloud market provides an incredible opportunity for differentiation as well. In the $4 trillion healthcare industry, billions of dollars are spent on managing transactions across disconnected platforms that lack interoperability.
It's not enough to build a service that can be hosted on cloud infrastructure. To truly revolutionize the industry, vendors need to develop platforms on cloud-native architecture that are portable enough to be hosted on any cloud platform with minimal changes while also being able to take full advantage of the public cloud infrastructure. Since cloud services are primarily undifferentiated, transactional platforms need to be able to operate on any of them. The first platform provider to provide such mission-critical transaction platforms can be the change the industry so desperately needs.