Cloud computing has been a buzz word in the IT industry for a decade. For the past ten years, we’ve seen companies in software, real estate, biotechnology, education, construction and many other industries migrate to the cloud. Only within the past couple of years, cloud has arisen as a hot topic in healthcare, and for the first time, healthcare is ripe for the transformation.
Historically, cloud was a scary word in healthcare because it carried the threat of HIPAA violations and other security concerns as well as many potential technical roadblocks. The negative perception of clouds in healthcare is fading. Cloud providers are now including HIPAA compliance guarantees in their business-level agreements and the infrastructure model enables scalability, mobility, cost reductions and a secure way to easily share data. Upon examination of any major cloud provider’s clientele, you will find several leading healthcare systems leveraging their services.
Self-hosting versus remote hosting
Though public clouds may be new to healthcare, we’re already seeing critical applications moving towards cloud computing services offered by the healthcare IT industry’s top vendors. With applications like population health, decision support and ERP shifting to the cloud, major EHR suppliers like Cerner, Epic and Allscripts offer off-prem, remote-hosted services. Healthcare organizations are diversifying their infrastructure and are leveraging these vendors’ cost-effective application hosting services. The transition to remote hosting for their EHRs has made them more and more comfortable deploying their most critical applications off-site.
As an example of a way cloud infrastructure is being used in modern healthcare, vendors like Philips and other population health providers started using the cloud for massive and dynamic compute and storage needs. This means a lot of PHI is already in the cloud. So why not migrate other healthcare applications to cloud infrastructure?
Overcoming a major setback with healthcare cloud computing
Latency, security and downtime have been obstacles to using cloud computing in healthcare. The improvements in cloud services have helped to overcome these obstacles while providing cost benefits. Over the past decade, multiple cloud providers across the globe have drastically reduced the latency on the connectivity to cloud, and healthcare organizations are taking advantage of this.
To save costs, many healthcare organizations have their data center miles away from their hospital location in areas where it is cheaper to rent or buy space. For this reason, several hospitals we’ve worked with rely on out-of-state colocation facilities in areas with lower real estate costs and certain tax breaks.
With cloud computing, an organization can potentially have the data center within its state or region of operations while it still achieves cost savings. What more and more health organizations are finding is that a hybrid solution of public cloud, remote hosting and colocation is an optimal option that takes advantage of the platforms’ unique cost savings and efficiencies.
Regarding security and downtime, selecting an appropriate cloud provider makes a big difference. You may need to consider cloud providers who know about healthcare and the industry’s unique challenges.
Infrastructure and applications
Industry-leading application and software vendors are already working with multiple cloud providers to facilitate quick deployments. Citrix XenDesktop and Horizon Cloud are already available on Amazon Web Services and Azure Cloud. Network security vendors like Cisco, Palo Alto and Juniper have a virtual version of their applications readily available in multiple clouds. The recent announcement from VMware on its collaboration with Amazon Web Services makes it even simpler for organizations to migrate their VMs to cloud environments.
Almost all cloud vendors currently provide various software and services for security, high availability and other areas. You can deploy your cloud in one region and have the cloud provider automatically build a disaster recovery solution or high availability in their data center in another location. With a high bandwidth fiber between their data centers, the data replication and backup are easier than ever before. Cloud providers take care of your major infrastructure hardware and software like your servers, hypervisors, etc. With the ability to scale your compute, bandwidth and storage needs, cloud is much easier than running your own data center.
Current challenges with cloud infrastructure in healthcare
Since healthcare organizations started considering cloud, they have faced quite a few challenges. As the cloud industry is a decade old, there are various providers. Selecting a cloud provider is a first big step. Factors to consider include HIPAA compliance, potential disaster scenarios, high availability and the software-defined networking background of an organization’s team.
Within each provider’s service portfolio, there are tons of options to select from, including compute and storage packages, network and high availability optics, replication and backup, security and user access. If an appropriate option is not selected, it will tax the organization with high costs and less flexibility.
At T2 Tech, we can help your healthcare organization analyze various cloud providers and their infrastructure so that you can develop the strategy right for you. As all applications are not ready to deploy in cloud, we can help you develop a hybrid model and migration plan for your organization’s applications to cloud infrastructure. We can also compare your current running cost and the cost projection for running in cloud over multiple years. As always, design and deployment are the main items for a secure infrastructure, and T2 Tech can help your organization design and build a secure and safe cloud.