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Healthcare Cloud Becoming Critical IT Infrastructure Tool

Healthcare organizations are embracing the cloud and no longer hesitant to trust cloud security as a recent HIMSS study points to future healthcare cloud dependence.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

Healthcare organizations are increasing their dependence on cloud technology as It decision-makers are putting more trust in the cloud.

Healthcare cloud infrastructure

The HIMSS Analytics 2016 Cloud Survey cites the strategic benefits of the cloud eclipse the previous security reservations. Healthcare organizations are generally rolling out cloud deployments first on back office applications, with plans to expand to analytics and patient facing apps. HIMSS analysts predict that cloud will become a mission-critical tool for all healthcare IT infrastructure incentives.

According to the survey, the use of cloud computing in the healthcare setting has tripled since 2014 due to the different ways organizations are leveraging the technology. In 2014, cloud was seen primarily as a way to support health information exchange (HIE) and store data, but in 2016, organizations are implementing the cloud for application development, patient engagement, and more.

The future of the healthcare cloud is looking bright as survey analysts indicate that cloud is becoming the preferred choice for healthcare back-office applications, backup and disaster recovery, revenue cycle management and patient engagement. Advantages of the cloud include, cost savings, scalability, speed, freeing up internal storage, mobilizing the workforce, and improving user applications.

“Cloud solutions are an extension of a healthcare organization’s communications infrastructure and connecting to the cloud is as mission critical as the platform itself,” survey analysts found. “Connectivity should easily ‘scale up,’ as more applications are moved to the cloud or more compute cycles are accessed for analytics.”

When organizations are deploying a cloud solutions, making sure the IT infrastructure is capable of supporting and compatible with the other solutions on the infrastructure is the key so a successful cloud solution.

“Healthcare organizations need to have confidence that the network is going to perform before they start moving applications to the cloud,” said Brian Hoekelman, vice president, business and cloud ecosystem deployment at Level 3.  “Leaders are now acknowledging this and it’s becoming a best practice to concentrate on setting up a network infrastructure that offers a high level of performance before you actually start using the cloud. The infrastructure has really become a prerequisite to using the cloud.”

Organizations have been recognizing the need for end-to-end involvement in the cloud deployment process with 54 percent of respondents engaging with their network providers throughout the entire cloud deployment process and 23 percent involving a network provider once they had selected a cloud partner.

Survey authors advise organizations to maintain a scalable and future-proof network. The network must provide organizations with a solid infrastructure that will consistently perform as required and offer a secure connection for the cloud service provider.

Healthcare IT departments need to have visibility of their entire network to monitor and control traffic in order to understand exactly how users are connecting to the cloud. The network must provide the organization with diverse connection paths to have the option of redirecting traffic to different zones for service failures or disaster recovery efforts.

Cloud service providers recognize the need for secure and HIPAA compliant cloud technology and are making efforts to understand HIPAA regulations and comply with healthcare needs. Many well known vendors are advertising their third party audits to appeal to healthcare organizations in the market for cloud vendors.

The survey concluded that cloud technology has grown out of being a niche technology used for a one off purpose in the health IT infrastructure. Healthcare organizations are deploying cloud solutions across the infrastructure to leverage data collected for analytics and building applications, as well as saving on-premise space and reducing the cost of hardware. The challenge for healthcare organizations is no longer whether to deploy the cloud or not, but how they will build a network infrastructure to support the inevitable continuation of cloud adoption.

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