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Adoption of cloud in healthcare picks up as patient data grows

As patient data grows, healthcare organizations face an increasing demand for storage. The enterprise hybrid cloud may be a viable alternative to on-premises infrastructures.

Over the years, the increasing use of medical imaging innovation and electronic health records have contributed to the overall storage needs of hospitals and other health organizations. That led many IT executives to reevaluate their storage growth strategy and required them to step back and evaluate their cloud adoption timeline. The enterprise hybrid cloud is the first stage in the move to the cloud, and its adoption has been on the rise. It has become the trend and alternative to the traditional on-premises infrastructure for a number of health systems. So what should IT executives look for when evaluating and comparing their cloud options to ensure their success?

Many healthcare systems, such as medical imaging systems, require a significant amount of storage in order to store all the data captured during a patient's exam. These systems also interact with other systems such as EHRs, and their expansion requires more computing power and storage. As a result, the cloud continues to be the desired destination for many IT executives as it offers a flexible, scalable and resilient environment.

Cloud environments are likely to host applications that are critical to patient care, and ensuring they perform well and applications are highly available is a must. Some cloud service providers that offer robust capabilities and systems around hybrid cloud capabilities are Google, AWS and Microsoft. There are a number of areas that must be considered when looking into moving toward an enterprise hybrid cloud in healthcare.

True and strong ROI

For a hospital to consider the hybrid cloud as their first step into shifting their workloads to the cloud, one of the first hurdles to overcome is justifying the adoption cost of enterprise hybrid cloud in healthcare and defining the ROI and total cost of ownership. A subscription model in which a hospital CIO only pays for what they use offers a good alternative to some of the big upfront costs necessary when performing upgrades to accommodate the storage needs of some medical imaging systems.

Seamless integration capabilities with on-premises

Hybrid cloud simply means that a hospital will host some of its systems and applications in one of the two environments, their on-premises data center or their private/public cloud platform.  Both of these environments would act as one comprehensive infrastructure to a point where applications perform the same way in either side. This unified platform is the result of efforts made by vendors to build integration capabilities that make the environments seem and act as one.

Value of secondary services

When reviewing some of the options offered in the cloud marketplace, one additional area that CIOs should consider when evaluating the different vendors is the secondary services available to them. A number of vendors offer additional services bundled in their subscriptions such as system management, security, system monitoring backups and even medical image processing capabilities. This provides hospitals new opportunities to do more with the cloud services than just host medical imaging data and its application.

Compliance and security

Protecting systems that host patient data is a daunting task, and the possibility of shifting the data to an environment physically out of reach may seem concerning to hospital IT. When considering the security capabilities offered by cloud providers, IT is able to meet many of the healthcare compliance requirements. IT executives would have to ensure that their preferred cloud vendor meets HIPAA compliance and any other compliance needs prior to shifting any workloads to their cloud offering.

Comprehensive management tools

From a system management perspective, it is critical for IT to have adequate tools that enable them to easily manage both the cloud and on-premises systems seamlessly. Microsoft's Azure Stack and VMware's vCloud enable IT to leverage the cloud services just as if they were an extension of their on-premises environment with very little difficulty. These are capabilities that allow for ease of use and transfer of loads between the two environments.

Healthcare organizations continue to see significant growth in patient-collected data. The growth is the result of the increase in patient-generated information, medical imaging or their health records. The flexibility of data expansion and cost savings realized by adopting the enterprise hybrid cloud in healthcare is accelerating IT's adoption of cloud services. But despite the cloud's popularity, it is not always a fit for every application or system, and IT must evaluate and define what systems would in fact offer strong benefits to the organization when moved to the cloud. 

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