Nov 13 2019

3 Common Mistakes When Migrating to the Cloud

As more healthcare organizations make the switch, it’s important to avoid common errors that may heighten risk.

The cloud’s appeal in healthcare can often be attributed to multiple factors — including better agility and control, increased flexibility and support for innovation. A KLAS Research survey found that 70 percent of healthcare organizations have already migrated at least part of their computing to the cloud.

But a high level of adoption doesn’t mean transitioning organizations don’t face challenges.

“There’s been this misconception of the cloud for a number of years, especially as it relates to healthcare,” says Chris Logan, director of healthcare industry strategy for VMware — specifically, the long, often misunderstood history of the relationship between cloud computing and organizational IT in healthcare.

Logan traces the origins of cloud in healthcare to two key points in time: the early days of remotely hosted electronic medical records about 15 years ago; and the move to Microsoft 365 in 2013, when healthcare organizations began using Software as a Service. Back then, however, many in the industry didn’t realize the technology’s potential.

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Today, Logan says, a move to the cloud provides healthcare organizations an opportunity to change operational models. Because risk can accompany the transition, it’s crucial to conduct a cloud implementation properly. 

Here are three mistakes to avoid during a cloud migration:

1. Failing to Develop a Cloud Strategy

An organization’s desire alone cannot drive an effective cloud strategy. That approach doesn’t address potential impacts to the organization.

“We’re hearing a lot of hubbub in the industry that ‘we’re cloud-first’ or ‘we want to be out of the data center business,’” says Logan.

He recommends that healthcare organizations base their cloud strategy on the ‘why’ of migration. This approach puts clear-cut needs ahead of vague statements of desire.

“Is it to maintain your current footprint and expand certain services, or are you consolidating data centers for cost savings? Or, do you need to elasticity to support open enrollment?” says Logan. 

He also urges healthcare organizations to consider how moving to the cloud will impact organizational culture, especially for the IT staff, which will be at the forefront of the change.

2. Underestimating the Need for a Scaled Network

With a cloud strategy in place, the move to the cloud can proceed. Nevertheless, organizations may still miss the mark by trying to meet the needs defined by the strategy in piecemeal fashion

“If you start to move to different public cloud offerings that have different tools, different models within the operations, then as a practitioner in the IT department, I could be monitoring four or five different screens across four or five different cloud providers,” says Logan.

IT departments should be thinking deeply about how to move different tools and workloads to the cloud, Logan says, and avoid going from one on-premises environment to several different cloud-based environments that will compete for IT attention. A single, scalable environment has the benefit of simplicity and visibility.

READ MORE: Discover why it's important that healthcare organizations lay a strong foundation for IT innovation.

3. Underutilizing the Cloud to Its Fullest Potential

Another misconception: Cloud migrations will automatically be cheaper. This can lead to unexpected sticker shock, with organizations pulling on-premises applications back to control costs.

To mitigate cost concerns, start by rationalizing application portfolios. “Health systems can manage a portfolio of 2,000 to 3,000 applications,” Logan says. “Rationalizing that portfolio — and decommissioning some of those applications — will provide a framework for moving some of those applications to the cloud.” 

This will also cut operational costs, which in turn will free up funds to ease the financial impact as the IT budget shifts to accommodate a new cost model.

Making intelligent choices about what will move to the cloud, says Logan, is the key to unlocking built-in economies of scale, and at a fraction of the cost.

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