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Report Helps IT Execs Navigate Through the Cloud

25 Nov 2014 by Christine Kern

A report from the Institute for Health Technology Transformation addresses the status of Cloud computing. Findings in the report along with other industry surveys “indicate that the most important concerns that healthcare organizations have about the Cloud are related to security and control of data, regulatory compliance, availability, bandwidth and cost,” according to authors. “Nevertheless, it is clear that these concerns are gradually diminishing as providers begin to see the many benefits of going to the Cloud.”

The top three reasons for Cloud adoption

The report, “Answers to HealthCare Leaders’ Cloud Questions,” recognizes that healthcare has been a relatively slow Cloud adopter. A HIMSS Analytics study from mid-2014 did show that healthcare providers’ Cloud usage is accelerating, with 83 percent of those surveyed now reporting that they were using the Cloud in some way. The top three reasons for Cloud adoption, according to the study, were cost (56 percent), speed of deployment (53 percent), and lack of internal staff/expertise (52 percent).

Study predicts vendors will adjust to draw new clients to the Cloud

One obstacle toward migration actually comes from some EHR (Electronic Health Records) vendors that don’t offer remotely hosted versions or don’t support customers who use third-party Cloud vendors to host their products. The study predicts that vendors will adjust to draw new clients to the Cloud.

Providers are feeling more comfortable about Cloud security

Healthcare providers are feeling more comfortable about Cloud security, partly because many Cloud vendors are signing business associate agreements. Cloud services say their data centers are more secure than on-premise operations because they have a higher degree of expertise than providers do.

New HIPAA compliance rules define Cloud services as business associates of healthcare organizations and increase their obligations to protect security and report breaches. Cloud vendors are paying much more attention to HIPAA than they used to, although there are still concerns about smaller vendors that use Amazon or other big hosting services.

Cloud has less downtime than the typical healthcare system

Cloud services have less downtime than the typical healthcare system does, because this is their core competency. They also provide a superior disaster recovery and backup resource. Healthcare providers are starting to believe in the reliability of Cloud vendors, and some view hosted backup as a cost-effective alternative to on-premise backup.

Managing an IT system is no more complex in the Cloud

Much more bandwidth is available at lower cost than in the past. Broadband is more widely available and new display technologies make it possible to use the Cloud in the most remote areas.

While the Cloud subscription model is very different from the on-premise approach to creating a health IT infrastructure, the costs of these alternatives are starting to even out.

Both vendors and providers agree that managing an IT system is no more complex in the Cloud than on-premises—in fact, it should be less complex. That’s true even with a hybrid Cloud.

Going to the Cloud can free up IT staff time

Going to the Cloud can free up IT staff time to work on projects that are vital to a healthcare organization. Because of the high cost of recruiting trained staff, more organizations are likely to favor the Cloud over building new or additional infrastructure on premises.

“Providers’ business is taking care of patients, not running data centers,” observed Drew Koerner, chief healthcare solutions architect at VMware. “The smart CIOs realize that. They’re all ready to move, but you need to take care of the cost, the security and the availability.”