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Mar 12 2015   12:18PM GMT

Cloud clarity and the road to future patient care

Posted by: adelvecchio
EHR usability, hybrid cloud, Private cloud, Public cloud

roberta-katzGuest post by Roberta Katz, director, healthcare solutions, EMC, @Roberta_Katz, @EMCHealthcare

Increasing at a rate of 48% per year, healthcare data is one of the fastest-growing segments within the digital universe. The growth rate of healthcare data eclipses the 40% figure representative of the overall digital universe. This mass of new healthcare data is produced by a multitude of different sources including, clinical applications, compliance requirements, genomic sequencing — and future care-enabling technologies for cloud, big data, mobile, and social.

Health IT leaders are working toward a future where data driven healthcare will help provide precision medicine to improve health, treat diseases and avoid unnecessary healthcare costs. Also, patients will see improved outcomes because of better information sharing throughout the continuum of care. This means data will move more easily between physicians, hospitals, pharmacies, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities and home health caregivers.

To reach these goals, health IT leaders are working on optimizing their EHR systems and determining how to best harness emerging technologies like cloud, big data, mobile and social media to store, protect, analyze and leverage healthcare data in a meaningful way. Most healthcare IT professionals feel their IT infrastructure is not fully prepared for what’s coming next, according to a recent MeriTalk survey. The questions is: what can they do to improve?

Goal: future ready

As healthcare providers work to leverage real-time data at the point of care, redefining their infrastructure to be “future ready” is becoming critical. The deployment of cloud models offers a path forward, enabling healthcare providers to deliver agile, next generation health IT to gain clinical and business efficiencies.

In 2015, 62% of health IT leaders planned to increase cloud budgets to help provide more coordinated, cost-effective care. Providers are starting to make the journey to an enterprise hybrid cloud as they balance clinical and business workloads with both private and public cloud resources.

Does public + private = hybrid?

Why all this focus on a hybrid cloud? The objective of an enterprise hybrid cloud is to deliver the same experience, capabilities and performance — regardless of how and where workloads are placed in the cloud — whether it be private, managed private or public. Another goal is to find a way to integrate traditional and next-generation clinical and business applications. To accomplish this, a software-defined approach is needed to change the way IT services are integrated and delivered to the care community.

A healthcare hybrid cloud environment is more than an infrastructure that includes public and private clouds. A hybrid cloud enables infrastructure transformation, application transformation and operating model transformation. It incorporates trusted, public clouds for access to a wide array of applications and services such as email and backup as a service. It includes private clouds for the reliable performance and security of critical clinical applications such as EHR systems and PACS. In other words, implementing a hybrid cloud framework helps healthcare organizations integrate multiple, disparate cloud environments and securely deliver the right data to the right caregiver at the right time.

As healthcare organizations position themselves to become future ready, there are even more reasons to deploy a hybrid cloud. With an enterprise hybrid cloud model, health IT becomes the broker of trusted IT services, the internal service provider of choice — balancing business and clinical workloads with private and public cloud resources, lowering IT costs, providing service catalogs and meeting service-level agreements (SLAs).

It’s not a destination, it’s a journey

As many as 18% of healthcare providers say they run EHR applications partially or fully in a hybrid cloud today. This figure means there is room for growth ahead. How can health IT get there?

For healthcare IT teams who are at the initial stages of investigating cloud models, the first steps should be to:
• Establish cloud roadmap priorities
• Execute a benchmarking assessment to review current IT capabilities
• Identify pain points, infrastructure automation, and any gaps for infrastructure, applications, and operating model for your ITaaS strategy

For healthcare IT teams with an understanding of their cloud-ready workloads, the following actions should be their next steps.
• Identify migration priorities
• Create a catalog of IT services across your network
• Build a charge-back process for IT service billing and financial transparency
• Establish an IT governance process
• Establish SLAs
• Quantify dollars saved or re-allocated to meet priorities; Review quarterly

According to a MeriTalk study, heathcare IT leaders believe cloud solutions will impact clinical and business workloads in the next two years by improving real-time data access, reducing cost of care, improving overall operations, reducing medical errors and improving insurance claims tracking.

Taken together, this progress means there will be more opportunities to focus on real innovation targeted at improving patient care outcomes.

About the author:
Roberta Katz is director of healthcare solutions at EMC where she focuses on helping healthcare organizations move forward their IT strategies and solutions for EMR optimization, healthcare hybrid cloud, patient data intelligence, and advanced medical imaging. Roberta has more than 25 years of health IT industry expertise in developing solutions to help improve patient care delivery, at the point of care, leveraging IT technologies.

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