Cloud Technology Helps Hospitals Focus on Use Rather Than Maintenance

by webadmin on November 29, 2012

Although some healthcare executives have major reservations about cloud-computing technology—reservations that include issues with regulatory compliance, security, privacy, and service-level agreements—many health systems and hospitals are embracing the cloud for the opportunities it presents, Scott Mace writes over at HealthLeaders Media.

One healthcare organization that has adopted cloud technology to great effect is the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. According to Joe Bengfort, executive director and CIO, UCSF is using cloud for patient care, its medical-record system, infrastructure, and back-end technology. In short, cloud has infiltrated the system in many positive ways, and these are just “preliminary steps,” Mace writes.

UCSF still has EMR via Epic, but Bengfort told HealthLeaders they’re using “an approach we call development on the edges of the medical record. Our strategy is to develop capabilities outside of the medical record, and then feed that information back into that system, or to link from the medical-record environment into some outside system,” such as Salesforce.com.

One of the reasons UCSF has adopted a cloud system along with EMR is to back the EMR up in the event of a disaster. This initiative is currently in the testing stages, and cloud vendor Dell Healthcare is using UCSF as its sole testing site for the project. Also, pre-EMR medical records are being stored on the cloud courtesy of Legacy Data Access.

Another system working on implementing cloud technology is Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, Ga. Years ago, Emory, like other systems, took a chance and staked significant dollars on application-virtualization technology, and this investment has prepared it for cloud technology, courtesy of GNAX. The result has been a decreased focus by Emory’s technical team on the nitty-gritty of healthcare IT.

Said CIO Dee Cantrell, “I’ve actually taken work off of my technical team, who was previously having to work on setting up servers and getting the hardware connected appropriately with the network and making sure all the security safeguards were in place, as well as loading the applications, and of course with that comes a lot of licensing expenses. Now, instead of doing that, we actually have our technical resources really focused more on going out and working with our customers, looking at strategy for new solutions, and working on implementing new things.”

In some service areas, Cantrell told HealthLeaders the system has saved 30 percent on hardware and infrastructure costs thanks to the cloud.

And then, there’s the speed and ease of use afforded by the cloud, one of the reasons why New York City’s Continuum Health Partners selected eClinicalWorks to handle its ambulatory EMR. It also helped the organization avoid more staff hires when it came time to implement and rollout the new technology to its physician partners.

“We could move quicker by not having to support the application infrastructure as well as the complexity of going from practice to practice and dealing with the application-integration issues, the data-migration issues, the workflow issues, and the adoption issues,” Mark Moroses, senior vice president for information technology and CIO of Continuum, explained.

Finally, cloud technology is playing a vital role in “the build-out of health-information exchanges,” since image sharing is more user-friendly with the cloud, Mace reports.

Overall, the common theme with these systems is that cloud technology is helping them focus on the “use” of new technology as opposed to the day-to-day trials of maintaining that technology. And as cloud technology becomes more sophisticated and secure, gaining the trust of even the most skeptical CIOs, it will become a vital component of healthcare infrastructures nationwide.

Observed Bengfort, “…I certainly think leveraging capabilities like this are going to be more and more prevalent as we move forward.”

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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