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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

May 7 2013   8:42PM GMT

Four cloud service providers competing for healthcare customers



Posted by: RedaChouffani
cloud

As more organizations move to the cloud and infrastructure management eases on IT departments, there is a steady shift from maintenance mode to more of a business and technology focus. Many IT executives are reviewing the full benefits and capabilities of cloud services, as part of the organization’s technology road map.

Management of infrastructure is one of the areas that many organizations are showing interest in. Organizations see value in layering cloud services on top of managed services (including application support, infrastructure support and maintenance) to handle some of the day-to-day support and maintenance activities. These support services must be provided by a qualified and somewhat specialized provider in order to work for a healthcare organization or other vertical businesses.

There are four potential vendor types best suited for healthcare customers.

Large health systems, hospitals or integrated deliver networks: An increasing number of independent physicians are looking to engage hospitals and other health systems’ existing hosted EHRs and other services. Some of these small to mid-size physician’s offices are being offered services such as IT support, EHR as a service, as well as other non-technology services. For some physicians this model would mean that their data is hosted within the hospital’s data center and support would be provided by hospital IT staff.

EHR vendors: Many EHR system vendors offer hosted services to their clients. By offering their customers a subscription model, they have been able to eliminate some of the large upfront costs that are associated with hardware and software. Some EHR vendors such as NextGen, and a few others, are offering managed services in addition to their SaaS model. This may not be a bad option for for small to mid-sized organizations. It is far better to have an EHR vendor offer support services than a non-healthcare technology provider with no prior understanding of the complexity of the industry.

Cloud service providers: Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Managed Hosting for North America lists over 15 different vendors cloud vendors. While there are still far more hosting providers in the marketplace, many of these ranked leaders by Gartner offer standard managed services that must be taking into consideration. But for most of us in healthcare, there are specific challenges and requirements to consider before committing to any managed cloud services. Some areas to consider are HIPAA compliance, scalability, healthcare vendor management, and connectivity to multiple vendors and entities (labs, radiology, HIEs, etc.).

Technology service providers: The last category of vendors that are seeking to provide managed cloud services to healthcare organizations are the healthcare technology providers. These groups have established credibility by supporting the various technology needs of hospitals and physician practices. They are able to offer healthcare specific IT support and managed services tailored to the specific needs of their customers. This managed cloud provider typically leverages existing cloud services and simply layers their managed services on top of those offerings.

While a cloud strategy is a must have for any healthcare organization, identifying the long term plans to ensure the end users are getting the appropriate support is crucial. Cloud support service providers may be able to offer basic IT support at an affordable price, but they will fail without a true understanding of an organization’s clinical and administrative needs.

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