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UC San Diego Begins Cloud Infrastructure Migration with Epic EHR

UC San Diego made their first step toward total cloud infrastructure by migrating their Epic environment to the cloud.

cloud infrastructure migration

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare organizations continue to move to the cloud as they seek more flexibility for their IT infrastructure environment.

UC San Diego Health recently moved their EHR to an Epic-hosted cloud environment to shift away from their traditional data center and to a less expensive cloud environment.

UC San Diego is the central location for EHR systems serving UC Riverside Health and its community practice affiliates. UC San Diego will also share its Epic EHR with UC Irvine Health beginning this November. Altogether, the UC Health system will integrate patient data across five academic health systems, making up the fourth largest health system in California.

“By creating greater operational efficiencies, we can invest more time and resources in patient care,” UC San Diego Health Associate CIO Mark Amey said in a statement. “UC San Diego Health has deployed a number of strategies to allow its hospitals and clinics to be more agile and respond to demand at a rapid pace within a robust disaster recovery environment.”

Moving its EHR environment to an Epic-hosted cloud is the first of UC San Diego’s multi-year plan to move key pieces of their IT infrastructure into the cloud. With its IT infrastructure completely in the cloud, the organization will be able to embrace more advanced future technology without having to host and manage new tools on-premises.

The migration has moved nearly 10,000 workstations to the cloud so users can access records faster and easier. UC San Diego also integrated over one hundred third-party applications to use within their Epic cloud environment.

Despite the general notion that healthcare organizations will never move their IT infrastructure to the cloud completely, UC San Diego plans to fully deploy all of their data storage in the cloud within the next three years.

UC San Diego technology decision-makers are aiming to leverage the cloud to give clinicians quicker access to patient records. UC San Diego Health CIO Christopher Longhurst said that UC San Diego is the first on-premises hosted academic that has switched to the cloud.

“This is back to the future,” Longhurst told HealthITAnalytics.com at Epic. “When I started seeing patients as a medical student, I would log into a mainframe somewhere a terminal. Then with fast processors and memory, we moved to computing that was local, and hospital data centers grew and grew. The move to Epic hosting for UCSD is the first step towards shrinking and potentially eliminating our data centers.  Running a data center is not a core competency for a hospital.”  

Longhurst predicts that the healthcare industry will move away from on-premises data centers and into the cloud and begin to catch up with other verticals in their cloud adoption.

“Part of the reason we’ve lagged is because most cloud environments weren’t HIPAA compliant until recently,” Longhurst explained. “Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and others now sign BAs.  They didn’t five years ago.  This is enabling us to make those moves.”

“It’s the right thing for hospital operations, because we should be out of the data center business,” he continued. “It’s the right thing for patient care, because if we can scale to these data centers that are more highly reliable, we can use those resources and let other people run them instead.”   

UC San Diego will move more of its tools and applications to the cloud over the next several years, although some will be more challenging than others. Longhurst commented that the organization’s PAC system is the largest remaining environment and that moving it across the country and into the cloud can potentially make it difficult for clinicians to use.

After successfully moving their EHRs to the Epic cloud, UC San Diego is confident that over the next several years, other pieces of their health IT infrastructure will transition smoothly as well.


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