Feb 15 2024

How Healthcare Can Use the Cloud to Its Fullest Potential

As artificial intelligence solutions evolve, healthcare organizations must take advantage of being in the cloud.

Just five years ago, it was rare to hear about healthcare organizations moving their electronic health record systems into the cloud. When I was working for a healthcare provider, I was an early proponent of moving our Epic environment to the cloud.

Though it took some time to move the needle on EHRs in the cloud, more healthcare organizations are now moving forward with their migrations. In recent years, partnerships between cloud providers and EHR vendors have helped boost the visibility of such projects. About 81 percent of healthcare leaders have adopted the cloud in most or all parts of their business, according to a 2023 PwC report.  

Still, most healthcare organizations are at the beginning of their public cloud adoption journeys. Many may be familiar with Software as a Service, but when it comes to moving critical workloads to the public cloud, they are still novices. There may also be lingering questions for those who have started their cloud journeys but are experiencing stagnation or ambiguity about what’s next for their programs.

Ultimately, cloud adoption is not just about taking on a new technology; organizations must have a clear strategy detailing the drivers, process changes and staffing needs that align with their overall vision. If organizations are just moving workloads to the cloud without strategic focus, they may end up saddling themselves with more problems than solutions.

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Although financial factors are a major driver for healthcare organizations initially moving to the cloud, I’ve found that as capabilities mature, cost savings give way to agility and flexibility as important elements. That’s why it’s crucial to view the cloud in context of an organization’s big-picture strategy. 

Not every workload needs to be in the cloud. Perhaps that will change in the next 10 to 15 years, but I expect healthcare to be in a hybrid and multicloud phase for some time.

EXPLORE: IT operations services can transform healthcare technology investments.

Consider these other drivers for cloud adoption in healthcare:

  • Getting out of the data center. Many healthcare organizations are realizing that they don't have to be the one providing the data center. Their strengths lie in satisfying the needs of their clinicians and patients, not the data center. They want to shift away from data center upkeep so they can focus on improving care delivery. Moving EHRs to the cloud can significantly reduce their footprint.
  • Security and disaster recovery. The cloud is as secure as an organization makes it. A common misconception is that security in the cloud is weaker. That’s not the case at all, as Theresa Meadows, CIO of Texas-based Cook Children’s Health Care System, told HealthTech last year: “A lot of our applications today are delivered through cloud-based services, and in many instances, these solutions are more secure than what we could provide ourselves.” The health system began its cloud migration journey with disaster recovery.
  • Increased demand for data and emerging technologies. When an organization moves toward a cloud architecture, it can actually build out much of its automation strategy up front so it can spin up solutions very quickly and spin them down to save money, improving dynamic scaling responses. As EHR and other vendors transform their analytics capabilities, organizations may find improved workflows with the cloud, especially as more automated and artificial intelligence-powered features become native to it. Also, as medical research becomes more sophisticated, the cloud will better meet those data needs.

When healthcare organizations move to the cloud, they have an opportunity to transform not only their tech stack but their processes and culture. Just because things are chugging along with an on-premises data center doesn’t make it the most optimized way of operating. Be open to possibility with a cloud transformation and how it can change operations for the better.

For providers still hesitant, reach out to other organizations that have started on their own cloud journeys. Rely on healthcare-specific cloud experts who know the workloads. Healthcare is a team effort that depends on the experiences of people who have already paved the way.

Don’t wait until the next refresh to get out of the data center. Cloud migrations don’t happen overnight. Organizations need time to build foundational items for operations, governance and strategy. Allow time to build out the skill sets and proper teams needed or start exploring the right partners that can help today.

UP NEXT: Get the most out of your electronic health record.

This article is part of HealthTech’s MonITor blog series.


Getty Images: monkeybusinessimages, Ricky Howitt

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