Best practices for healthcare data migration to the cloud

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Healthcare cloud adoption challenges include cost and complexity

Although the cloud offers many benefits to healthcare organizations, it is important for CIOs to properly plan for a migration to mitigate any potential issues.

When it comes to technology trends, cloud adoption has become popular in many industries, including healthcare. The opportunities that result from moving to the cloud include reduced infrastructure complexity, scalability and pay-as-you-go costs. Hospital CIOs are encouraged to make their move to the cloud but should do their due diligence before planning a migration to avoid cloud adoption challenges.

The push to move production systems to the cloud is the result of the maturity level and capabilities vendors offer in their cloud platforms. Cloud services are usually more cost-effective than what hospitals deploy on premises. For IT decision-makers in the early evaluation or implementation stage of cloud services, there are certain aspects of cloud services that can cause higher costs and data protection issues if ignored.

Here are five cloud adoption challenges hospital CIOs should be aware of before planning a cloud migration.

Unplanned variable costs

An area of frustration for many IT executives when it comes to the cloud is the complexity of billing. Some have compared their cloud service bill to a confusing cellphone bill when they encounter line items for services that seem obscure. The most frustrating part of cloud services for IT has been unplanned charges from bandwidth overages, increased storage consumption, overprovisioned services or adoption of new services.

Vendors have gone to great lengths to improve their cloud billing to help clients understand their charges. Unplanned charges or increases in hosting costs is concerning to CIOs as it becomes more difficult to predict and plan the overall costs for their environment.

Not enough talent to manage and support the cloud

Hospitals still struggle to attract health informatics talent due to their shortage in the marketplace. The rise in cloud adoption in recent years has also increased the demand for talent with those skills, leaving hospitals facing significant difficulties finding help.

Although the reality may seem grim to find healthcare IT engineers with ample cloud experience, CIOs are finding it easier to partner with cloud service providers to get help managing their new environments. Many providers offer support while organizations are getting their internal resources up to speed on their newly implemented cloud. This model allows a hospital to build their own cloud team organically, while still getting the support from external resources for potential cloud adoption challenges.

The cloud does not always include DR and BCP

The hours-long outages Microsoft and Amazon experienced earlier this year were concerning to those who were affected and those who planned to adopt cloud services. These outages can't always be prevented, but it must be noted that those who did not implement an appropriate cloud disaster recovery and business continuity plan were the ones most impacted by the outage.

The misconception is that when you are in the cloud with three nines, your data and environment are fully protected. Unfortunately, that is inaccurate. Vendors encourage clients to take advantage of backup and disaster recovery services. Systems provisioned in the cloud require the same protections as on-premises workloads. Disaster recovery, backups and business continuity planning must be implemented to ensure systems remain operational in an outage.

Once you are in, you can't easily get out

Leaving a cloud environment is an uncommon occurrence, but customers do occasionally switch vendors. Leaving a cloud environment that has its own proprietary way of virtualizing workloads and storing data can be nearly impossible. The combination of technical challenges, compliance requirements and the high costs associated with leaving a cloud vendor have pushed many IT executives to remind everyone to plan ahead. CIOs should have an exit strategy and discuss it with the vendors to ensure its feasibility and understand the potential ramifications.

Not all EHR platforms perform well in the cloud

Organizations looking to migrate some of the existing systems that host their EHR to the cloud must ensure that their applications are compatible. There have been many occasions where EHR vendors did not fully test different cloud environments. Regardless of what reasons they may have for not supporting a vendor, this can prevent them from choosing a particular vendor if it is not on the approved list from their EHR vendor, leaving them to go back to the drawing board, or stay on premises.

As cloud computing continues to evolve, more healthcare organizations are making the move. The increasing demand for more storage, computing power and growing data from connected medical devices, IoT and EHR have all contributed to the push to the cloud. Fortunately, many of today's cloud providers can meet those demands while addressing healthcare compliance requirements. As long as IT decision-makers are aware of and address potential cloud adoption challenges, the journey to the cloud will facilitate many of their objectives toward better patient care, cost reduction and improved outcomes.

Next Steps

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