The Discovery Channel has been airing a show since 2003 titled, “MythBusters.” The show’s hosts use elements of science and the scientific method to test the validity of rumors, myths and news stories. There’s been a lot of chatter about healthcare and the cloud, so let’s run our own MythBusters-style experiment on cloud technology and its adoption in the healthcare space.
Cloud has many definitions, but for today, let’s define it as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Some believe that cloud usage means the healthcare entity will lose control of data management. There are also beliefs that compliance will be compromised as a result of having data residing in the cloud, so traditionally, healthcare has been strongly against or labeled a “late adopter” of cloud technology because of these fears.
Let’s discuss three areas of cloud technology that have provided solutions to use cases in healthcare: Platform as a Service (PaaS), Desktop as a Service (DaaS) and Back-Up (BaaS) or Business Continuity (BC)/Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS).
The consolidation of healthcare systems and clinics has highlighted the need for clinical interoperability and Accountable Care Organizations (ACO). Cloud technology is making it possible for entities to onboard or standardize on technology without interrupting high quality patient care.
For example, Health System #1 using Electronic Medical Record (EMR) “X” purchases Health System #2 using EMR “Y” and now you’re faced with an expensive problem: merging data records. Cloud makes it easier and more cost effective to standardize and onboard a unified platform. An EMR platform can cost a health system millions of dollars to implement on-premises. From selecting the standardized platform to assessing interruption of workflows and implementation, this project could take six months to a year.
Cloud offerings (PaaS) are allowing this transition for a fraction of the cost of on-prem and reducing implementation time to weeks versus months. Pre-configured databases set up as targets or interoperability production workloads allow Health Systems to implement quickly without interruption of end-user experience or performance.
Once the production platform is set up, workers will need uninterrupted access to vital data by making it available on any endpoint device. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) powered by cloud computing (sometimes referred to as DaaS) makes any device with internet connectivity a workstation. So, if it is a smartphone or an integrated mobile technology tablet like Motion, an end user will have access to data through a desktop. The persistent desktop empowers workers to move from end point to end point all while avoiding the need to restart. Simply logging off of a workstation and logging back in will see all applications and data the way the end user left the desktop. This is important for nurses moving from station to station that require Single Sign On (SSO) technology.
The growth of home health has seen an increase in the need for specific applications like EMR or proprietary data programs. These applications need to be available for contractors and workers not in a Health System’s Active Directory (AD). Solutions can offer mobile applications and device management, and the client software can then authenticate in order to receive universal access to virtual applications and desktops.
Legacy platforms require a place to store old data, which creates a need that back-up or DR options resolve for long-term storage and BC for short-term storage. How can we ensure access to information in case of an outage or disaster? What if I just need to recover information because of a human error? BC/DRaaS can provide multiple ways to accomplish recovery from a fully-managed solution to a reserved “pool” of resources. (While I am bundling Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery today, these technologies can be spun up separately.).
Think of these BC/DR solutions in the example of an airline flight. Some airlines have policies to overbook a flight to guarantee they will have a full flight of paying passengers. This is an example of pooled resources. The resources are available, but only because they are oversubscribed. This could mean a company may not get access if all subscribers need access to the resource pool, and unfortunately, the cloud does not offer free flights and hotel vouchers! A fully-managed solution is similar to purchasing a first class ticket from an airline. You have preferred access to different waiting areas, you board the flight early, your seat is guaranteed and you have a dedicated resource (flight attendant) to handle all of your needs. A fully-serviced BC/DR plan can build in continuity and management during a crisis to allow a Health System to focus on the most important task—improving patient care and patient outcomes.
By the abovementioned facts, the data seems to be in and, at the very least, cloud could be an alternative to a physical installation of resources. The cloud does not, however, take control away unless it is requested specifically. As a result, we believe the myth that healthcare isn’t ready or secure for cloud technology has been busted. So, what’s stopping you from taking the plunge?
Interested to learn more about technologies in the healthcare space? Check out our collection of healthcare-related webinars, data sheets and white papers for more information.