Your next medical diagnosis could come from a cloud-based machine learning system. According to a Bloomberg report, Alphabet Inc. (GOOGsubsidiary Google is gearing up to provide "Diagnostics-as-a-Service" capabilities through its cloud division. The service will analyze reams of patient and disease data to diagnose patients and, possibly, recommend appropriate drugs for treatment. A German cancer specialist Alacris Theranostics GmbH is already working with Google's cloud division to carry out virtual clinical trials and virtual patient modeling. It uses these models to design drug therapies for patients. (See also: Google Creates New Cloud Group to Take On Amazon and Microsoft.)

Google is not the only cloud company targeting the healthcare industry. International Business Machine Corporation's (IBM) Watson, which uses a mix of artificial intelligence and cloud computing on the back end, analyzed medical data and images pertaining to 1,000 cancer patients last year and returned diagnoses that concurred with a human doctor's assessment in 99 percent of all cases., Inc. (AMZN), which is a leader in cloud computing, lists genomic sequencing as one of the most prominent use cases of its service on its site. Last year, the National Cancer Institute announced a collaboration with Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) and Amazon to analyze cancer genomes and enable secure collaboration between researchers using the company's cloud services. (See also: Top Medical & Healthcare Software Companies.)

Healthcare spending on cloud services reached $3.73 billion in 2015 and is expected to increase to $9.5 billion by 2020. Primary use cases for this spending were data storage, email and software systems that increase efficiency. For example, telemedicine is rapidly gaining ground as a means to cut down on redundant costs associated with doctor visits for minor ailments. Medical diagnosis using cloud computing is a relatively new use case.  

And it might be a while before the diagnostic use case becomes a reality. This is because such diagnoses requires healthcare providers to release critical data to cloud computing companies. A mix of regulatory and competitive advantage considerations may prevent them from doing so. The Bloomberg article quotes an analyst who says that medical data are likely to remain "locked up" with healthcare providers in the "foreseeable future." (See also: Investing in the Healthcare Sector.)

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