By Bill Tepper, founder and CEO of Provaré Technology
Health organizations are slowly wading into the cloud, drawn by the financial and business advantages and a growing sense that HIPPA and security concerns are being addressed. These are big questions that have to be addressed before investing the time and treasure into shifting to a cloud-based system.
But for health organizations that have already moved over, they are now taking advantage of the cloud’s ability to manage and analyze vast amounts of data, store and share electronic health records and free their organizations from paper. The opportunities don’t end there. It might be time to begin thinking about the taking the next step and using the cloud to drive speed, productivity and patient engagement.
Moving to the cloud offers two sets of advantages. The first set accrues to the organization, in terms of lower costs, high levels of reliability, and an ability to re-deploy resources to the core business, which is to provide the best healthcare anywhere. Any number of articles written on this subject does a great job of covering off on these benefits.
But the cloud also offers a second set of benefits – significantly speed, which translates into productivity and engagement – for the end user. Coupled with high-speed internet and readily available wireless devices, doctors, nurses and other providers can be untethered from their workstations. But that freedom – and the benefits that are supposed to flow from it – is only as good as the implementation.
In a nutshell, speed flows from complexity. Because electronic health records and other health-related applications rely on extensive databases, health organizations have highly complex software systems. Reducing complexity – making the system lighter through testing and optimization – improves download and transaction speeds, and consequently makes the user more productive.
Google recently studied the expectations that mobile users have of the internet. They discovered that 53 percent of mobile users will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load. That same study says that the average existing mobile site loads in 19 seconds, meaning that there is a huge gap between what consumers expect and companies deliver. People expect their online experience to be fast, quick, equal to the best they have seen online.
Doctors, especially, are demanding users. They can have high expectations for everybody and everything around them. While doctors and other providers aren’t able abandon an internally dedicated application, slow response times can have an effect on productivity. By spending more time waiting “on the computer”, doctors spend less time focusing on their patients.
Patients, on the other hand, can simply refuse to use balky patient portals. They can, instead, do their paperwork by hand in the waiting room, or call the office to talk to the staff – either of which continues the reliance on paper files and time-consuming telephone calls. It’s critical that the portals work almost instantaneously, just like the very best sites on the internet.
This is especially true when the user count goes up – that point in the morning when everybody is logging in at the same time, for instance. As more people try to access the system, the strain goes up, often slowing everything to a crawl – or worse – with far fewer simultaneous users than expected.
Standard cloud features such as elastic scaling can keep the system responsive, but it’s only hiding the problem. Poorly optimized software systems consume more cloud resources to perform the same functions, meaning cloud-related costs are higher than they should be – sometimes as much as 20 times more. When the system is professionally tested and optimized, the whole system uses fewer resources and overall costs go down.
Testing and optimization are important, but it’s not a one-and-done endeavor. It’s equally critical to monitor all of your system’s potential points of failure, both internal and external, with a set of white box tools. It’s the best way to predict when, where, and how a complex system will reach its capacity, and adjust the system resources required to meet the actual need. Monitoring keeps the doctors, nurses and providers productive, focused on their patients, and eliminates surprise hosting charges associated with elastic scaling.
Hospitals and other health organizations deal in vast amounts of data, and cloud-based storage and applications are frequently the right solution to managing it all. Taking advantage of all the cloud’s benefits, however, depends on how well the applications are tested, optimized and monitored. When these things are done, organizations are able to drive speed, productivity and engagement – and increase focus on providing patients the care they need and deserve.
About The Author
Bill Tepper, founder and CEO of Provaré Technology, is an expert in the testing and optimization of mission critical software, from websites, applications and databases to aircraft avionics.