Not long ago, healthcare IT professionals thought of the cloud merely as a place to store data and handle back-office solutions. But ideas about the platform for provider organizations continue to rapidly evolve.
Healthcare IT leaders are more willing than ever to expand how they use the cloud, a recent national survey shows, and they are turning to the technology for advantages in scalability, flexibility and cost savings. Healthcare leaders also tap the cloud for services such as disaster recovery and Big Data analytics, for which cloud use has jumped dramatically.
More applications and storage in the cloud mean less hardware to buy and maintain. The cloud has also become more secure, removing some of the security burden from healthcare organizations and turning it over to better-equipped cloud service providers. For instance, a growing number of cloud providers have received Common Security Framework certification from the Health Information Trust Alliance, a collaboration among healthcare, business, technology and information security leaders. HITRUST CSF is the gold standard for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability compliance.
While it’s clear that the cloud has advantages, you don’t have to leap in all at once. In fact, it’s better to take a measured, thoughtful approach based on your organization’s needs, existing data, and legacy equipment and services. Here’s how to develop your own roadmap to cloud adoption.
What Comes First When Setting Out a Cloud Road Map?
Be sure to ask these questions:
- What are your organization’s goals for migrating to the cloud? Determine how best the cloud meets your needs. For some, it makes sense to migrate everyday productivity, such as email and word processing, to the cloud via Microsoft Office 365. That frees up onsite data centers for more important tasks. My advice: Start small, gain successes in the cloud, and then move on to larger, more complicated projects, like Disaster Recovery as a Service.
- How will you connect your existing infrastructure to other cloud components? Taking a hybrid approach that leverages both a private and a public cloud setup can help. It allows for a mix of data to be both on-premises and offsite, which improves flexibility in the event of a disaster.
- What types of workflow will your organization add that might require use of the cloud? It’s very important to understand orchestration and automation tools that can help with managing cloud use across various environments — both public and private — especially when it comes to chargeback and showback policies for tracking IT usage.
- What combination of public and private cloud services will work best for your organization? Some organizations are all in with the public cloud, while others think a 50-50 split between public and private services makes the most sense. It really depends on the organization’s workload, security posturing, internal IT skills and knowledge. There’s no right or wrong answer — in fact, most organizations tend to rely more on private than public clouds.
Providers also need to consider exit strategy and remediation in the event that a certain cloud is not the right fit.
This article is part of HealthTech’s MonITor blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #WellnessIT hashtag.
Cloud Trends that Save Time and Money Catch On
Many other healthcare trends are cloud-based or soon will move to the cloud. Here are some that we’re seeing:
- Telehealth is going to be a great driver in the cloud’s future. Now used mostly for live consults or quick questions, you’ll soon see more long-term care delivered via telehealth, including mental health services, prenatal care and chronic-condition monitoring.
- For many patients, especially seniors, wearable devices are becoming a more common technology. Data from wearables, such as blood sugar levels, heart rate and activity levels, are sent to the cloud for storage and caregiver analysis.
- The amount of data healthcare institutions generate continues to grow rapidly. The cloud has the advantage of practically unlimited storage and computing power, making it possible to perform complex Big Data analytics for almost anything, from streamlining medical protocols to evaluating patient data for trends.
- As the cloud becomes a central repository of health information, it allows data to be entered, accessed and shared among research sites for real-time collaboration. On a smaller scale, providers who treat an out-of-state patient can easily access that patient’s data via the cloud.
Cloud-based services hold the potential to lower costs and expand infrastructure and treatment options for healthcare organizations. By advancing a clear and thorough strategy to get there, your organization can take advantage of all the benefits the cloud offers.