The Time is Now: 3 Tips for Cloud Adoption Success
There is no question that the shift to cloud computing in healthcare is accelerating: Healthcare spending on cloud services topped $3.73 billion in 2015 and is expected to nearly triple to $9.5 billion by 2020, according to MarketsandMarkets research. Yet, many healthcare CIOs remain cautious. While there are challenges to overcome when adopting cloud computing, the industry has matured and delivers tremendous benefits to healthcare organizations. Understanding both the benefits and challenges, and keeping three tips for success in mind, CIOs can proceed confidently to gain the advantages cloud computing offers for healthcare organizations.
What makes cloud computing so compelling?
The healthcare industry has exploded in recent years with vast amounts of data generated from clinical, imaging and other systems as well as new mobile and monitoring technology. The potential to use this data for countless types of research and real-time care management is still unfolding. Imagine the following scenario:
Real-time patient monitoring is enabled for a population of Alzheimer’s patients to help them maintain independence using mobile devices. Each patient’s daily walk at a specific time along a predetermined route is monitored, and if a patient strays from his route, his mobile device alerts him and guides him back on track. If he continues to move away from his route, his caregiver is alerted so that appropriate action can be taken. At the same time, key data points such as his heart rate, blood pressure and medication doses are also monitored.
Now imagine hundreds of thousands of patients and caregivers as well as the sheer volume of data being transmitted, stored, managed and analyzed. Consider the questions that may be asked: Of the patients who walk in a particular park, how many strayed from their route and why? Are patients compliant with their medication regimen? Can data predict which patients are at highest risk and which interventions are most effective? The practical challenges of putting vast amounts of data to work in this way are the primary driver behind cloud adoption.
Embrace the benefits of cloud computing
Cloud computing service providers are maturing and the top-tier, hyper-scale providers, including Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Google and others, have a strong presence in healthcare with datacenters located worldwide and the ability to provision services on a global scale.
These service providers allow healthcare organizations to quickly and cost-effectively tap these processing and storage resources instead of undertaking the capacity and growth planning, procurement and management of resources on site. Organizations can then leverage new data models that integrate, normalize and analyze data from disparate sources, such as for a cancer registry. This can be added to the variety of sophisticated tools service providers offer, such as machine learning and predictive analytics. Ultimately, cloud computing helps healthcare organizations reduce operational and maintenance costs, all while increasing deployment speed and delivering unmatched flexibility and scalability for future needs.
Face the challenges
From a healthcare CIO’s perspective, cloud computing presents specific challenges that cannot be taken lightly. At the top of everyone’s mind today is security and privacy. Many service providers, including the top-tier providers, have implemented rigid controls – and continue to improve them – to meet rapidly evolving healthcare data requirements.
Closely related is ongoing regulatory compliance with FDA, HITRUST, HIPAA, etc. Again, the top-tier vendors are experienced with healthcare’s requirements for security, privacy and regulatory compliance. Their data centers are audited at the most stringent level. Most of these vendors also give a clear understanding of which of their services can be bound by a Business Associate Agreement and outline the specific ways they comply with requirements for handling non-patient data, protected health information (PHI) as well as how back-ups, audits and incident responses are managed.
Three tips for success
Given the complexity and nuances of the cloud computing market, the following are three tips that will help healthcare CIOs proceed with confidence to make a successful transition while avoiding common mistakes.
- Choose the Right Partner. There are hundreds of cloud service providers in the market making similar claims and it can be very difficult to separate the truth from marketing hype. Because most healthcare IT teams do not have deep cloud computing experience, a partner can bring vital expertise to the table. Partner with an organization that has the depth of knowledge needed to thoroughly assess vendors and their offerings and help you select the solution that meets your organization’s current and future needs.
- Expect Ongoing Vendor Optimization. Working with your chosen partner, build ongoing infrastructure optimization into your long-term plan to be sure you are taking full advantage of the services and cost structures your cloud service provider offers. For example, once your project is live in the cloud, your partner can help assure that you make full use of new services or applications, improve performance and increase operational efficiency on an ongoing basis.
- Train Existing IT Staff. Cloud computing requires a different mindset. It’s important to enlist your partner to thoroughly train IT staff on best practices for managing your full IT environment, especially new procedures for access control, incident response and disaster recovery across your cloud-based and on-premise systems.
It’s an interesting time to work in healthcare IT as various technologies – mobile, big data, predictive analytics, and more – converge to improve patient health while making better use of time and resources. At the same time, healthcare organizations face increasing competition, resulting in pressure to use these technologies to create advantage in their market. Given its promise of agility and nimbleness along with its strong value proposition, it’s a perfect time for healthcare CIOs to proceed with their cloud adoption strategy.