Nov 16 2017

UC San Diego Health Informatics: UCSD Health System Moves its Patient Data to the Cloud

UCSD Health is moving to the cloud as part of a larger effort to combine all of the University of California’s patient records.

The University of California San Diego Health System is moving its electronic health records (EHRs) into the 21st century with a transition to the cloud.

The health system is no stranger to innovation. UCSD’s Jacobs Medical Center outfitted patient rooms with iPad devices and Apple TVs with the primary goal of allowing patients to share and view their own electronic medical records. In September, the university partnered with IBM on plans for an Artificial Intelligence for Healthy Living Center in order to conduct research on early signs of cognitive impairment in seniors.

Now, as part of a long-term strategy to move away from traditional data centers, UCSD Health is shifting its EHRs to the cloud, which promises to offer a more secure storehouse, according to a press release.

“By creating greater operational efficiencies, we can invest more time and resources in patient care,” Mark Amey, associate CIO, UC San Diego Health, said in the press release. “UC San Diego Health has deployed a number of strategies to allow its hospitals and clinics to be more agile and respond to demand at a rapid pace within a robust disaster recovery environment.”

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Cloud Lays the Groundwork for Healthcare Informatics

The cloud infrastructure will be deployed over the course of three years. Already, the University of California information services team has moved approximately 10,000 workstations at UC San Diego Health to a virtual delivery method that allows users to access EHRs via the cloud.

“The cloud approach allows us to better provide innovative technology to support outstanding clinical care, research and teaching,” Adam Gold, CTO, UC Irvine Health and UCSD Health, said in the press release.

On a larger scale, the move will also support an initiative to integrate patient data from across five of the six University of California academic health systems into a UC Health-wide data warehouse, Christopher Longhurst, CIO for UCSD and the sponsoring executive for the cloud data warehouse, told Healthcare Informatics in a recent interview.

As the UC Health System looked to merge the EHRs from its five academic systems, it was looking at spending millions in additional data center costs. Instead, CTOs from each academic system created a strategy that moved records to the cloud and essentially consolidated 13 data centers across the five UC hospitals down to two.

“The least preferable option in that context is local hosting. It may be necessary long-term for things like biomed, where there are latency-dependent applications, but in general, we want to move away from that,” Longhurst told Healthcare Informatics.

On top of offering cost savings, the move to the cloud will support future services and operations such as value-based care and population health.

“Value-based care and policy, and payment changes are making us rethink a lot of things. We can do wonderful things in the genomics world, for example,” Longhurst told the site. “But when we’re talking about integrating data from many different sources, that reduces the value of the data if it’s not readily integrated. So that’s really driving us to scale our EHR across more of our affiliates, so that together, we can provide the high-value care that our customers expect of us.”

Overall, the move will enable further interoperability and growth across the five academic health systems.

“You have to think about what your customers want and need from a service perspective, and also from a growth perspective,” Gold told Healthcare Informatics. “And the cloud … gives that to us. We can burst and grow, or if needed, shrink. The most important thing is what your customers expect, and matching that, or beating it, once you move to the cloud.”

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