By Steve Forcum, cloud solutions engineering leader, Avaya.
A recent report on hybrid cloud in the healthcare industry predicts that hybrid cloud is set to jump from 19% penetration to 37% by 2021. In an industry historically slow to adapt in the world of IT, why is hybrid cloud becoming healthcare’s primary choice?
To be fair, there was hesitancy in most major markets when it came to cloud services, many questioning the security of it all and even how it functions on a basic level. Cloud-based data centers that can either be run by third parties (public) or built and maintained internally (private).
And now that the mystery of the cloud has been de-stigmatized in the workplace, more and more organizations are turning to the cloud as its primary servers, but don’t want to give up control completely. This is where hybrid cloud comes into play.
A hybrid cloud serves as the best of both worlds. With a hybrid model, there is a channel that links an established, private computing system with a public cloud, providing access to unlimited processing power.
Both the private cloud and public cloud work in tandem to run applications, depending on decreased and increased workloads. Here’s why this is important for healthcare professionals:
The Data Storing Problem
The healthcare industry more than most, has immense amounts of data stored on its legacy servers filled with Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Although a private cloud helps keep this information safe with a firewall, the flooding of medical records may cause other applications to slow or even crash, forcing providers to buy and install more servers just to keep the system running.
This costs money and time — both crucial and limited in a healthcare environment. The hybrid cloud serves to remedy this problem as it allows applications to run from both the largely scalable public and secure private cloud, depending on demand.
The hybrid cloud model is set to save the cumbersome task of troubleshooting. Often, hospitals and clinics have to undergo a long approval process that is HIPAA compliant before they are granted the permission and resources to update and install its outdated or outgrown software. Because the public part of the hybrid cloud is maintained by a third-party, it is constantly being updated, relieving the healthcare employees of software upkeep and maintenance.
No Compromise on Security
When it comes to a hybrid cloud, there is no need to compromise on customization. Healthcare IT professionals have full control over what assets are kept on the private data center and what gets moved to the public cloud. Privacy is not jeopardized when sensitive information can still remain behind the internal firewall. For example, while less sensitive data such as appointment requests can run on the public cloud, EHRs can stay protected by the private system’s firewall.
As we look towards 2020, it’s the perfect time to migrate your health IT infrastructure to the hybrid cloud.
Since the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was signed into law in February 2009, rural, community and critical access hospitals are turning to electronic health record (EHR) systems to receive significant incentive payments based on meeting meaningful use regulations. However, the impact on workflow makes achieving a return on investment (ROI) after implementation challenging. Additionally, the burden is placed on these hospital’s small IT departments to meet federally mandated deadlines such as meaningful use.
According to a 2014 HIMSS Analytics survey, 83 percent of healthcare providers are using cloud services. Compared to server-based networks, the cloud is especially beneficial to rural hospitals because of the lower upfront, implementation and maintenance costs, resulting in increased ROI. The cloud system’s pay-as-you-use method removes the need for expensive hardware, and the accessibility and security of patient records improves efficiency and patient care, allowing hospitals to prove they are meaningfully using EHR technology.
Implementation and Maintenance
Because of budgetary restraints, rural hospitals typically have outdated technology and some areas do not even have computers. Recently, I visited a hospital with only one computer on each floor and no EHR system in place at all. Because of this, these hospitals must implement user-friendly healthcare technology that is easily implemented across the network– even for clinicians with limited or no experience in a high-tech environment. This type of easy-to-use EHR systems not only improves patient care, but also helps hospitals qualify for federal incentive payments. However, time is running out. Hospitals only have one more year to receive incentives for being MU compliant. After this timeframe they not only won’t receive payments, but they will be penalized financially for not meeting regulations, which is especially detrimental to smaller hospitals.
Cloud-based solutions allow hospitals to deploy EHR systems quickly and at a lower cost. While server-based EHR systems can cost $40, 000 or more, a cloud network does not require any hardware to be installed on-site. Therefore, upfront, implementation and maintenance costs are much lower than a server-based solution. Less hardware means less opportunity for failure – thus, maintenance costs decrease drastically as the lifespan of a cloud-based system is much longer than a physical server solution.
Guest post by Travis Good, M.D., CEO and co-founder of Catalyze, Inc.
Even if a bit delayed, the power and value of cloud-based technologies is starting to seep into healthcare. With each new cloud-based technology piloted or taken to scale by a healthcare organization, other institutions and corporations become more willing to roll the dice on deploying cloud-based technology. While still slow, it is happening, but not where you may think. Instead of found in the typical core applications of EHR or practice management systems, we find cloud-based technologies being introduced into the innovative health technology areas of virtual care delivery and patient self-reporting. Those areas are breaking down the barriers to cloud adoption in healthcare and that pace is increasing.
Cloud-based technology acceptance, along with everything else in the healthcare industry is moving faster than ever before. Accountable care, bundled payments, patient satisfaction, continuous care and the consumerization of healthcare are catalyzing changes to a very large, slow moving, highly regulated and risk averse industry. Technology and technology enabled services are essential for riding out these waves of change.
Every healthcare segment has seen these paradigm shifts and is trying to carve out a piece of the new pie. Large medical centers and health systems want to commercialize tools created in-house. Payers are building technology geared toward new forms of care delivery and price transparency, while biopharma is building technology to deliver continuous care powered by data from its core products – devices and medicines. All three of these healthcare segments can build technologies that utilize cloud computing and thus reap the following benefits:
A more nimble organization
Consumption of only the resources needed
Access to technology and apps across geographic barriers
Compliance and Cloud Computing
With recent changes to HIPAA that went into affect as part of the HITECH and HIPAA Omnibus Rule in 2013, a surge in compliance interest has developed, especially with compliance as it relates to cloud computing. The HIPAA Omnibus Rule created a new segment within the string of compliance leading back to covered entities. The new “subcontractor” segment is something of which every healthcare compliance officer must be aware. In much the same way as a business associate processes, transmits or stores ePHI for a “covered entity,” a subcontractor will also process, transmit, or store ePHI for “business associates.” And, subcontractors, like business associates, are required to sign business associate agreements (BAAs). These agreements outline the obligations of each party in meeting different aspects of HIPAA compliance rules, and delegate the risk based on different types of possible ePHI breaches.
In creating this new “subcontractor” entity, the Omnibus Rule accounted for the paradigm shift in technology development and cloud computing. The most commonly used example of a subcontractor is found in a cloud hosting provider like Amazon (AWS) or Rackspace; yet, many other types of services exist that could be considered subcontractors.
As data and services are being accessed via Web services (typically APIs), a huge number of BLANK-as-a-Service offerings have emerged. Many modern applications utilize third-party APIs for features and functionality to speed time-to-market, while adding value to users. Using simple to consume APIs, modern applications can tap into databases, messaging (SMS, Push, email or voice), usage metrics, logging, customer support, data sources, backup and so forth.