News Feature | September 19, 2014

So You're Considering Cloud Computing

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Healthcare Cloud Computing

Report Helps IT Execs Navigate Through the Cloud.

A report from the Institute for Health Technology Transformation addresses the status of cloud computing and offers several takeaways they feel healthcare executives need to know. 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,” write the 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 report, Answers to HealthCare Leaders’ Cloud Questions, includes input from four provider IT leaders and a major cloud vendor. The study recognizes healthcare has been a relatively slow cloud adopter, but an HIMSS Analytics study from earlier this year did show healthcare providers’ cloud usage is accelerating,

That study found 83 percent of those surveyed reported they were using the cloud is some way with top reasons being cost (56 percent), speed of deployment (53 percent), lack of internal staff/expertise (52 percent), disaster recovery (50 percent), need for a scalable, always-on solution (45 percent), regulatory compliance (42 percent), security (27 percent), and workforce mobility (27 percent).

With the growing migration to the cloud in healthcare, the current report offers some key takeaways to help IT executives make the transition as seamless as possible. Here are some key points:

  • 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.
  • Compliance: New HIPAA 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.
  • Availability: 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.
  • Bandwidth: 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.
  • Cost: 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. One cloud vendor says that over a 5-year period, providers can save 20 percent by using a private cloud and 40 percent in the public cloud.
  • Complexity: 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 if an organization chooses to use a hybrid cloud.
  • IT Support: 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.