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Obamacare's Gift to Tech: Cloud Computing

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The cloud computing market has been touted as one of the key, emerging growth areas for the world's largest software giants as enterprise marketing and information technology departments flock to cheaper, faster and more efficient ways to manage, organize and analyze massive quantities of data. Within this budding area of lucrative business opportunities is a sweet spot garnering more and more attention thanks in part to a key, fast-approaching October healthcare implementation deadline mandated under President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA): healthcare cloud computing.

"It's what our clients demand and what the marketplace is demanding," Barry Mason, vice president at IBM's Global Healthcare Payers division said over the phone. "Our clients want to shift their financial structures away from capital-based investments to where they can really increase their returns on investment. The market tells us this is about speed and flexibility at a reduced cost and that yesterday's way of developing IT systems and functions no longer cuts it in the market. We're enabling the business service and infrastructure changes needed to make that shift happen and to support what payers and providers see for implications."

"We're finding them literally flocking to the cloud," Bill Crounse, MD, senior director of Microsoft's Worldwide Health division commented by phone. "We're having really good conversations with healthcare customers today. They're interested, really excited about this new era of devices and services in cloud."

Starting October 1, the most central aspect of Obamacare's program requiring all Americans to get signed up for health insurance kicks into full force. Health insurance marketplaces across the country will be opening themselves up to enrollment with coverage becoming effective January 1, 2014. This is also being accompanied by the increasing movement towards so-called "accountable care organizations" since the ACA was signed into law more than three years ago, encouraging the tight coordination between healthcare providers and payers and the shift in payment models to a "fee-for-value" rather than "fee-for-service" approach. All the new integration and payment models mean the healthcare industry will be inundated with new and existing medical records in the hundreds of millions. These records need to be stored, organized, analyzed, and instantly accessible all at minimum administrative costs; that's where cloud technology comes to the rescue. Through a cloud-based computing model, all this healthcare information is easily and instantly delivered from one end to another with little fuss and without being tied down by the heavy costs of investing in the installations of complicated healthcare software and technology infrastructure and of being burdened by the costs of security breaches. Cloud providers must comply with many privacy standards such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) before they can extend their services.