E-Handbook: Cloud for healthcare transforms CIO skeptics into believers Article 4 of 4

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What's behind the increased use of cloud services in healthcare?

The healthcare industry is getting over its fear of the cloud and beginning to adopt services like cloud-based EHRs for easy access to patient data on the go.

When it comes to tech trends in healthcare, the cloud is beginning to see greater adoption as health IT decision-makers shift more workloads to public and private clouds. The move to the cloud was worrisome to many in healthcare at first, with security and compliance being two of the biggest concerns. However, cloud providers proved they could implement robust security practices and no major incidents have been reported against big vendors like Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Because of this, cloud services in healthcare are predicted to accelerate due to a number of factors that are pushing CIOs to make the shift.

Cloud-based services are attractive to many health IT departments because of their promise of reduced complexity and improved scalability. However, there are other contributing factors that are making the shift to the cloud even more appealing to health IT executives.

Smaller infrastructure means more resources for innovation

IT continues to be under pressure to keep up with healthcare innovation and must allocate time and resources to evaluate and adopt new healthcare technologies. Healthcare leadership sees technology innovation as a way to improve patient care and staff productivity. By shifting some services to the cloud and reducing the amount of hardware, IT and other support staff can be retrained to focus on more impactful activities.

Cloud-based EHRs can spur adoption of other cloud services

There has been a significant increase in the number of EHR systems hosted in the cloud. Products like AthenaHealth, Practice Fusion, Elation Health and CareCloud have attracted healthcare organizations to their cloud platforms in lieu of the traditional on-premises model. As more physicians evaluate the EHR options they have in front of them, more are opting for the new cloud model that requires very little upfront investment in infrastructure. As more healthcare organizations move to cloud-based EHRs, they are more likely to adopt other cloud services as well.

Accessibility and demand for more mobile experience

A key driver behind cloud services in healthcare is accessibility. With the demand for constant data access by healthcare professionals, cloud services tend to offer more flexibility and accessibility options. Physicians and other hospital staff are constantly using mobile apps and other cloud-based apps for prescription ordering, clinical references and telehealth. The new modern workforce will likely continue to demand flexible data access, and cloud-based tools seem to address most of those needs.

Cloud providers offer a more robust security infrastructure

When it comes to securing an environment, hospitals and medical practices recognize the need to invest in security tools to keep their data protected against cybercriminals and cyberattacks.  But for some of the large cloud providers, securing and protecting their clients' data is one of the biggest priorities. Microsoft invests over $1 billion dollars a year on its cybersecurity to ensure that its clients' systems and data are adequately protected. These types of investments are far beyond the reach of any health organization.

Cost controls and predictability are key with cloud services in healthcare

When it comes to budgeting for IT costs, many CIOs find it difficult to predict infrastructure costs over a period of time. It becomes even more challenging to determine the cost per user. But with some of the cloud services being adopted by healthcare organizations, cost per user per month is the gold standard with some vendors even billing by the minute for compute resources. This pricing model makes it easier for healthcare CIOs to plan and budget accordingly as they add more users to the environment.

Higher service-level agreements mean less downtime

Another area that is encouraging cloud services in healthcare is uptime. Instead of investing in redundant hot sites where data and systems are replicated across multiple environments, CIOs can use cloud workloads that allow them to receive higher SLA commitments and guarantees of uptime without any additional investments from their end. The cloud has also been used as a failover site by some hospitals as a way to eliminate the infrastructure costs to build out a secondary hot site for failover.

As healthcare organizations continue their journey in modernizing their systems and adopting new technologies that support them in achieving their goals, the cloud is becoming a significant part of their roadmap. Despite some of the previous concerns around security and costs, more CIOs are seeing the advantages of cloud services in healthcare and are endorsing that shift.

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