By Ramachandra Annadi, technical architect, Qentelli.
Cloud technology has made its way into IT since Continuous Delivery became a priority to nearly every business sector, including the healthcare industry. In fact, many hospitals and healthcare organizations are now housing electronic medical records in a cloud-based environment, giving medical teams a more convenient way to access patient data.
Even studies show that cloud computing in healthcare is set to hit $40 Billion by 2026, which is no surprise since the cloud offers numerous benefits including reducing IT costs, providing quick access to business applications and forms, and supporting medical teams with on-demand and easy access to patient data from anywhere, via computer or even on a mobile phone.
However, major concerns still exist with the cloud including challenges with security and privacy which is why healthcare organizations have to be extremely careful with the type of solution they deploy as healthcare data breaches can be very risky and costly. In fact, data breaches cost healthcare organizations millions of dollars each year because patient data is classified as extremely valuable on the black market.
So it’s extremely important that organizations have security features in their cloud like perimeter and internal firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and data encryption to ensure they are operating under maximum security.
The Accelerate State of DevOps 2019 report showcases key findings on the cloud and claims to be the largest research of its kind, presenting 6 years of research comprising data from more than 31,000 professionals across the globe. Focusing on the required practices and capabilities to deliver powerful business outcomes that can shape progressive businesses and medical teams, the report talks about various aspects from culture to cloud adoption.
The report once again warns the enterprises, to ‘Excel or die!’ while giving insights about what the key characteristics of cloud computing are as defined by National Institute of Standards and Technology – NIST.
However, one glaring finding in the report shows that only 29% of the respondents using cloud infrastructures agreed or strongly agreed that they meet all five of the below essential characteristics of cloud computing.
Let’s see how important these characteristics are for cloud efficiency.
It is definitely one of the most prominent reasons why the cloud on-demand model has gained so much popularity in the healthcare sector. While maybe not essential, having an on-demand self-serving portal to access the cloud’s accounts, tap into subscribed cloud services, and access tools to provision and de-provision services unilaterally as needed – can all significantly improve the user experience for physicians, nurses and other medical teams.
This clearly empowers business agility. On the other hand, it’s a good idea for a reliable IT rep to manage control over on-demand resources as it reduces administrative burden, but it should be controlled with a corporate channel as well to avoid risks like Shadow IT. Most of the enterprises that depend a lot on the cloud, encourage their IT departments to have cloud inventory management and perform periodic cloud audits to prevent hiccups and ensure efficiencies.
Broad Network Access
Global business research giants predicted more than “65% of businesses across the globe will depend on the cloud by the end of 2022.” The cloud’s capability of enabling ubiquitous network access and scaling it at any given point for growing medical facilities could lead to such dependency.
Public clouds are great for healthcare organizations to be globally present and be serviceable to their staff and patients. Cloud services are meant to be accessible from any computing device supported by any network. Broad network access can be seen both as a trait of the cloud and as an enabler.
It certainly is an important characteristic of the cloud, but practitioners say Broad Network Access can be achieved without the cloud too, since a Public cloud may not be a reliable option for companies that deal with sensitive information like hospitals do. Enterprises with private data and with regulations like HIPAA requirements, opt for private and hybrid cloud environments behind a secured firewall and special authentication to prevent outside entities from accessing the critical data and information that they possess.
It is a fundamental feature in the premise of scalability in the cloud. Resource pooling is older than the cloud and is a very useful tactic to serve the consumer’s demand by dynamically assigning and reassigning different physical and virtual resources in a multi-tenant model.
Since it is not an economic option to avail a single-tenant cloud, companies who would like a sense of independence will opt for pooling resources such as storage, processing, memory, and network bandwidth to improve the organizational abilities.
When the servers are pooled, we spend less time supporting and maintaining those resources, which can be important to reducing healthcare IT costs.
Elastic computing is an important trait in IT supply that controls costs and time to market (TTM). Before making any purchase decision for a new IT solution, every healthcare IT decision-maker has one question to ask – “Is it scalable?” After all that’s one quality that determines the cost, efficiency, and performance of the delivery. Looking at the IT supply chain, major parts of the cost is associated with deployments. However, that can be fought through rapid elasticity and enable faster deliveries and revenue generation.
You can’t better what you can’t measure, they say. Most of the cloud systems automatically control, optimize and report the pooled resource usage by leveraging a metering capability appropriate to that service. Every component like storage, processing, memory utilization, network bandwidth, and active user accounts is measurable in terms of their cost and performance.
It is an important aspect that helps business leaders to evaluate the delivered business value, calculate the business expenditure and enable transparency for both the user and provider.
The measured resources can be optimized, and advanced Artificial Intelligence practices can fuel them. The cloud can gauge the problems in Database performance, analyze the code, improve the bandwidth of IOPS and optimize all the aforementioned resources when as user-traffic increases.
Understanding the essentials of cloud computing, deployment and service models can help the organizational leaders to make informed decisions.
As the 2019 State of DevOps report clearly shows, it is important for healthcare IT organizations to choose a cloud solution that delivers a full suite of functional capabilities, like the five critical components highlighted in the study, so that everyone within the organization can realize the maximum benefits for today, as well as over the long haul.