Jan 27 2021

Hospitals Save Costs and Gain Dynamic Service in the Cloud

Moving to the cloud improves resource management and deployment for healthcare organizations.

Increased adoption of cloud computing is a central tenet of the ongoing digital transformation in healthcare, offering organizations of all sizes the potential for cost savings, greater efficiency and logistical advantages in remote work and virtual care delivery.

Although the continued investment in cloud services suggests that organizations are capturing widespread benefits, optimizing these requires thoughtful planning and an understanding of how to use elastic cloud environments to drive efficiency. When making the case for a cloud migration, it’s important to think digital first, adapting standard practices to the cloud environment. Often, that means becoming a smaller, more agile operation.

Cloud Resources Increase Healthcare Efficiencies

Pennsylvania-based Geisinger is in the planning stage of a four-year cloud migration, and a desire to increase efficiency is one of the main drivers behind the migration, says CIO John Kravitz.

“A lot of applications that we have running on-premises are inefficiently written, and that requires a lot of capacity to be allocated to those apps, so we have a lot of compute and storage dedicated to an app that never gets used,” Kravitz says. “Some of these may use 10 to 15 percent of that capacity, even though it’s never getting touched, so it’s a wasted resource.”

Avoiding a “lift and shift” approach to cloud migration is key, he says, because otherwise the organization is just transferring those inefficiencies to the cloud.

“We are looking at every application to see if it has cloud enablement or Software as a Service, so you can ratchet down the need or wind it up slowly as the need for those resources presents itself,” he says. “Most of the public clouds give you that scale-up capability when you need it.”

That’s a point of view shared by B.J. Moore, executive vice president and CIO at health system Providence, which serves patients in seven states. The cloud provides an opportunity to become smaller and more dynamic than the organization could be on-premises solutions, he says.

“We can retire half of our apps, and we’re finding a lot of these apps can be consolidated, so we’re reducing our estate of apps massively and retiring thousands of servers in the process,” Moore says. “It’s about changing your practices to be in a cloud world, which is a just-in-time, elastic environment.”

The cloud also supports simplified, centralized data access, says Moore, pointing out that a cloud-based data lake provides storage that can be expanded, along with compute performance that can be ramped up when needed.

“We use advanced AI models to predict COVID outbreaks, and if we didn’t have the cloud, we wouldn’t have been able to do this modeling,” he says. “All the waves of innovation are going to be in the cloud, and if you want to compete, you have to be in the cloud.”

RELATED: Avoid three common mistakes in cloud migration.

Cloud Helps Hospitals Pivot to Virtual Care Expansion

Moving to the cloud also will bring benefits to Geisinger’s virtual care delivery services, including videoconferencing capabilities, says Kravitz. In addition, it will facilitate easier access to data for remote office workers, although he stresses that data security must remain a paramount concern.

The cloud delivered a similar benefit to Providence, where it helped the organization meet a rapid rise in demand for virtual visits immediately after COVID-related closures, says Moore.

“The beauty of the cloud is that we just added licenses, whereas if it were on-premises, we would have had to wait months to add and install more servers,” he says. “In a crisis like this, that elasticity is invaluable.”

Kravitz also points to benefits for Geisinger’s research initiatives, including work with genomic sequencing. Moving data from New York City-based biotechnology firm Regeneron to the Amazon Web Services cloud supports mass compute on that data for patient care purposes and greater flexibility in the use of resources.

“It would cost us millions to have that hardware hardly being used on-premises,” says Kravitz. “It makes it more cost effective for us to just delete that data when we are done with it.”

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