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Posts Tagged ‘Cloud’

The Gift of Communication to Assist in the Fight Against Ebola

In the spirit of the holidays Perficient is joining Partners In Health to help fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, by providing communication tools that enhance communication and collaboration for the more than 1.5 million users.The Gift of Communication to Assist in the Fight Against Ebola

Founded in 1987, Partners In Health (PIH) works to strike at the root causes of illness by weaving together clinical and social support for poor and marginalized patients, by training local healthcare providers in the communities they serve, and by advocating for global policy change.

Resource allocation at PIH has always prioritized the needs of people over systems. While the current email system attempted to meet PIH requirements for 10 years, there were significant deficiencies and it was very expensive to maintain. It was common to lose email service for a period of days. PIH applied and received a grant from Microsoft for Office 365 subscriptions and they selected Perficient to help with the migration.

Perficient migrated PIH infrastructure to the cloud and developed and executed a comprehensive organizational change management (OCM) program . “When looking at technology solutions providers, Perficient’s proven track record in the healthcare industry and demonstrated Microsoft cloud services expertise stood out immediately,” said Dave Mayo, CIO, Partners In Health. “Thanks to our partnership with Perficient, we are adopting a consolidated, reliable platform for colleague interactions – one that enables us to more effectively serve our world’s most vulnerable. We are immensely grateful for Perficient’s generosity and support of our efforts.”

Office 365 will allow users to access email from anywhere in the world on any computer or mobile device with access to the Internet. OneDrive for Office 365 will enhance collaboration among all PIH users, both domestically and internationally. The platform will provide PIH with a reliable and secure communication toolbox, including storage and collaboration tools. Deployment of Office 365 across PIH sites in Africa, Haiti, Russia, and the U.S. will enable PIH’s mission to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care and will be an important tool to enhance communications as they respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“The mission and values of Partners In Health firmly align with Perficient’s aim to be responsible, active corporate citizens in our larger community,” said Jeffrey Davis, Perficient’s chief executive officer and president. “We are honored to support Partners In Health’s mission as it works to attend to the needs of underserved populations and improve the quality of health for all.”

Read the entire press release here

Visit learn more about Partners in Health or to make a donation.

3 Components for a Successful Hybrid Environment in Healthcare

It is no secret that healthcare organizations are collecting more information today than ever before. They’re collecting information about their own operations, their patients and the communities they serve. The challenge for healthcare organizations isn’t collecting the information, but analyzing the data and efficiently and securely storing it. Healthcare organizations that can overcome the data challenges and gain faster, fuller data insights will have the tools to positively impact patient care and overall business.3 Keys to a Successful Hybrid Environment in Healthcare

When it comes to data storage, healthcare organizations struggle with finding a balance between “on premise” and the cloud. Many CIOs recognize the need to expand beyond the home port and are quickly moving information to public clouds. However, they aren’t completely abandoning their data centers for fear they won’t have control or access to timely information. The hybrid IT solution helps to solve the data storage problem but it also brings a unique set of concerns in regards to data control, data access and data compliance.

Data Control
Data is much easier to control when it is housed in one central location. With a hybrid IT solution, however, you do not have that luxury. Data stored in multiple locations must be seamlessly connected, able to securely and efficiently move between locations and allow you to maintain full control across all platforms.

Data Access
The key to collaboration and improved patient outcomes is ensuring everyone who needs access to data has it. On the flip side, broad data access needs to be secure and only available to authorized users. With a hybrid IT solution integrated data supports collaboration beyond the walls of the healthcare facility.

Data Compliance
Changing regulations are putting added pressure on healthcare organizations. Keeping up with the evolving regulatory landscape is a challenge in itself and having information stored in multiple locations only adds to this complexity. Developing a strategy to protect data and manage it to ensure it meets regulatory requirements is critical to a hybrid IT solution.

Hybrid IT environments provide the best of both worlds when it comes to data storage and analysis. Leveraging a hybrid environment will lead to timely and accurate analysis of data which will result in the delivery of actionable insights for improved collaboration, better patient outcomes and overall lower cost of care.

Considering implementing a hybrid IT environment or just want to learn more? Join Perficient and UnityPoint Health for a discussion on the benefits of Power BI and Office 365, and how one technology-savvy healthcare provider is leveraging its hybrid environment of Power BI, Excel-enabled dashboards and SharePoint 2013.

Sign up for the November 12th webinar

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Re-think the Customer Portal Using Cloud

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had an enormous effect on health plan organizations. ACA has created choices for consumers,  impacted health plan business models and changed how they serve their members. Health plans are investing in technologies that align with their business strategies and seek scalable and flexible options that improve member interactions and customer service.

In this video, Fernando Acosta, Director of Infrastructure Management, Blue Shield of California discusses the changing healthcare landscape and how Blue Shield of California chose Perficient as their system integration partner because of their healthcare expertise . Perficient’s Doug McCulloh (@dougmcculloh), Director of Business Development is also featured and discusses how Perficient uses portal patterns to speed deployment.

The new robust customer portal allows Blue Shield of California the ability to grow on demand and deploy new environments in hours rather than months and improves customer experience.

Healthcare Embraces the Cloud

Liza Sisler, Director at Perficient, recently wrote a blog post about the incredible growth of cloud based services by healthcare organizations:

 “Nearly all cloud adopters plan to expand their cloud services; areas for growth include archived data, disaster recovery and hosting operational applications and data”.   

“The top three reasons for adopting cloud services include lower maintenance costs, speed of deployment and lack of internal staffing resources. The survey shows a positive growth outlook for cloud services as almost all healthcare organizations currently using cloud services plan to expand their use of these tools.”

With healthcare organizations traditionally being slower to adopt cloud based options due to security concerns, this study shows the changing landscape for payers and providers. You can read the full blog post and view an infographic on cloud adoption in healthcare here.

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Posted in Business Intelligence

#TexasHIMSS: MD Anderson’s Consumer Driven Cloud Based Solution

MD Anderson uncovered a potential problem.  Their physicians were using non-approved cloud based storage programs that they “may or may not” have been using to share PHI.  I will note that they use a pretty broad definition for “consumer driven”.  I define consumers as the target market that, in this case, a healthcare provider must engage to generate revenue that impacts the bottom line.  The inside of the organization collaborates with “consumers” outside of the organization.  That’s, perhaps, because I come from the business world where “consumer driven” is defined as “offerings, plans, or strategies motivated by customer demand or expectations.” In this case they were targeting physicians and not patients.  Yes, anyone who consumes a technology is a “consumer” of that technology, but that would basically make the entire technology world as a whole “consumer driven” because every technology is created with someone and their problem in mind.

SBEXRF-00017872-001Now that I have stepped off of my soapbox, below you will see the three steps they used to solve their problem using cloud based technology.

Step 1: Analysis and Planning

Used support of network and desktop teams.  Reached out to a few employees and received positive feedback.  Need to establish an appropriate scope.  Decided it was naïve to say that they couldn’t put the data they use in that system.  They went forward assuming it would include PHI.  Worked with desktop and network teams to identify actual target technology.  Engaged Information Security early.

Step 2: Prototype Pilot Implementation

MD Anderson used the following process to implement their pilot

  • Implement gradually and with care.
  • Evaluate surveys and usage data.
  • Pilot with a mixed user base, prototype with power users and set end user expectations

Pilot program tips were to address security concerns early, take the time to test support and administrative tools, and don’t forget about the support staff.

Step 3: Support and Marketing

Partner with key groups for support.  Advertise that these services are available.  For internal collaboration I often suggest you communicate these new tools “7 different times in 7 different ways”.  In MD Anderson’s case this included advertising the tool on their very own television station and using the help desk to document users that they knew were already using cloud based storage (perhaps inappropriately) and targeting those users.  One of the ways definitely need to be a training program that highlights any self-service functions built into the new program.

Cloud is Driving Scale, Compliance and Growth in Healthcare

Today, a report by market research consulting firm RNCOS released findings that predict the healthcare technology market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of about 10 percent between now and 2018.


About one-third of healthcare organizations now use cloud technology. 

According to Fierce Health IT:

Continued innovation and government suppport for such tools will factor into the market’s success, according to the report’s authors. The report examines five trends, including an increase in:

  • Wireless and cloud technology
  • Government initiatives
  • Strategic consolidations
  • Reduced operating expenses
  • “Technological upgradation”

The cloud offers the advantages of:

  • Quickly scalable on-demand infrastructure and storage, which clinics, hospitals and provider offices require.
  • Accessibility to healthcare data across multiple settings and geographies, creating a unique opportunity to better serve the patient by sharing information more easily than ever before, and improving operational efficiencies.
  • Vendor technological expertise to support the cloud model.

What about compliance, security, and privacy?

Healthcare organizations must comply with complex medical coding and billing rules, along with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy and security regulations. Healthcare data, including Protected Health Information (PHI), must be kept secure, confidential, available only to authorized users, traceable, reversible and preserved for long periods of time. The right cloud solution for a provider must account for all of these concerns while conforming to HIPAA and Meaningful Use requirements.

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Healthcare CIOs are carefully moving to the cloud

Recently our company has increased our focus on what healthcare organizations are looking for when it comes to cloud computing, in large part due to our acquisition last year of two fantastic Salesforce partners (ClearTask and CoreMatrix). I found this article in Healthcare Informatics to be very interesting. It’s titled “The Many Flavors of the Cloud” and includes interviews with some key CIOs regarding how they view private vs. public cloud solutions and the sensitivity – and often the mandated security requirements – around health data when stored in the cloud.

There are some obvious advantages to providers moving to private cloud storage for all types of data across the organization, but also some critical considerations for any CIO or CMIO. Here are the key takeaways I got from this article.


Medical imaging takes up a lot of storage space in the healthcare space. Imagine a 24 hour study of your heart that takes up a terabyte of space. The cloud can enable better scale for this type of need.

Key insights about cloud computing in healthcare:

  • CIOs interviewed prefer “private cloud” solutions over public cloud solutions like those of Google, Amazon and Microsoft – more control around access & rules
  • CIOs don’t want to deal with power issues, cooling issues, and capitalizing hardware over time – 3 reasons they enjoy Cloud
  • They enjoy reduced costs in scaling a storage room, servers, etc..
  • CIOs take personal ownership over creating their own stringent security requirements for their cloud vendor, making them feel better about storing PHI or other sensitive healthcare data in it.

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Google Decides to Take on Oil of Olay






Google is tackling anti-aging with their new healthcare initiative called Calico.  It remains to be seen if it is a threat to anti-aging creams or will increase their potential customers.  But seriously, Calico is being led by the former Genetech CEO and current Apple Chairman, Arthur D. Levinson and this new healthcare project will leverage Google’s massive cloud and data centers to help facilitate research on disease and aging.  Google already had an investment in 23andMe, and, as a result, has access to a fast growing genomic database that could be used for research into increasing longevity and disease.  Personally, I like these “big bet” investments with a great long term goal by companies like IBM and Google.  Today, we are seeing significant gains in analyzing unstructured information and natural language processing in healthcare, thanks to IBM building Watson to play Jeopardy.  Hopefully, Google’s investment in Calico can bring about innovation in personalized medicine by deep analysis of a person’s genome versus their medical history.  Focusing on an individual’s genetic make-up, it’s impact on aging and the prevention of possible disease is exactly the premise of Eric Topol’s book called The Creative Destruction of Medicine and a bold step in the right direction.


Hopefully, Google can use its worldwide reach, like they did with Street Maps, to examine key populations that have longevity today and the combination of their genetics, lifestyles and geography to bring quality of life and wellness to more people.   Google’s investment in Calico could create new “Blue Zones” where a people in demographic or geographic area of the world live measurably longer lives.  Taking guidance from Dan Buettner’s book, “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from people who live the longest,” I would suggest that Google begin analyzing the men in Sardinia’s Nuoro province for their genomic lessons.  Studying these centenarians as benchmarks for these rest of us living long lives is a great place for Calico to begin.  Just my two cents worth . . .


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Posted in News

Is Cloud Computing the Answer for Healthcare?

It is a much talked about fact that the healthcare industry lags behind other industries in IT adoption. With constantly changing regulations, security concerns, and the pressure to deliver better care at a lower cost, healthcare providers have not implemented the latest technologies to leverage their data. One solution to these issues is cloud computing.

Cloud computing in healthcare holds many advantages, including:

  • Computer closeup detailMobility: Data is stored in the cloud infrastructure, allowing provider staff to access it from anywhere, anytime. 
  • Decreased costs: There is a reduced capital expenditure on hardware and maintenance. Also, hospitals will only pay for the services they use, and challenges can be addressed remotely by IT personnel.
  • Better care: The cloud provides a central platform for EMR data, prescriptions, reports, and patient history. When all of this data is available, the risk for misdiagnosis or conflicting treatments is reduced.
  • Scalability: As the amount of data healthcare provider house grows, cloud server storage can easily be increased, unlike IT infrastructure.
  • Security: Cloud service providers are liable for HIPAA compliance, requiring them to encrypt and securely house data.
  • Speed: Working in the cloud allows for collaborating and sharing data in real time. Data is synchronized as it is processed or updated, allowing staff to work together without being in the same place.

Leveraging the cloud would allow providers to meet regulatory compliance standards at a lower cost than implementing traditional technology. Various forms of data are interoperable, allowing for analysis and reporting. While security concerns remain, cloud computing is becoming a viable answer for healthcare challenges. Read more about cloud capabilities in the article, “Perficient’s cloud prescription for healthcare companies.”

Why is Healthcare lagging in IT adoption?

Earlier this week Phil Fasano, EVP & CIO at Kaiser Permanente, wrote a blog post posing the question: If other industries have proven that IT can improve processes and reduce costs, why has healthcare been so slow to adopt? Phil’s post discusses the current state of healthcare IT as well as what entrepreneurs can focus on in the future. Here are a few key points from the article:

  • If we hope to… improve the quality of care and make it available to more people, while still reducing costs – it is imperative that our health system embraces new and disruptive technologies.
  • According to Insight Research, health care IT spending will grow 9.7 percent annually between 2012 and 2017. That compares to an annual 6.4 percent growth rate in overall healthcare spending.
  • IT systems have…revolutionized financial services, and as a result banks have since saved billions of dollars as consumers first used ATMs for deposits and withdrawals, and then started to pay their bills and make purchases online. According to a Bain & Co. brief, transaction costs have dropped from $4 at the teller window to just 8 cents when paying a bill via a smartphone.
  • EHRs are already proving to save lives and costs, from identifying redundant tests and dangerous drug interactions to revealing trends in treatment outcomes.

The healthcare industry has a great opportunity to employ IT to improve the quality of care and lower spending. But where do we start? Phil suggests that entrepreneurs in the healthcare space being by focusing on: Read the rest of this post »

EHRs: Change is coming in 2013

Sean Brooks, in his article 5 EHR predictions, very astutely anticipates several upcoming changes related to Electronic Health Records:

  1. 2013 will be the year of the replacement EHRs
  2. Many EHR vendors will disappear
  3. The cloud is here to stay

I believe Sean is spot on and I would like to expand on this based on my research and opinions.

Many physicians jumped on the EHR bandwagon to secure Meaningful Use funding for Stage 1.  In fact, some only had to show proof of intentions to collect a check.  Others jumped off the deep end and installed EHR systems only to spend a long time learning the system.  After investing a lot of time in the setup and learning the new system, they realized it doesn’t support their practice.  I’ve spoken to a lot of physicians who feel betrayed and are angry with their EHR vendor.

2013 will be the year these systems with shortcomings get replaced.   Physicians are realizing there are better options on the market and the cost of upgrading is far lower than the cost of continuing to use systems that restrain their business.  There are EHR systems that are designed to adapt to the physician practice instead of forcing the physicians and their staff to change.  Then, there is Meaningful Use Stage 2.  A lot of systems who enabled Stage 1 will not be upgraded to enable Stage 2.  Physicians will be forced to replace their EHR system if they wish to attest for Meaningful Use Stage 2.

EHR vendors will disappear.   The 2014 requirements to certify a system to attest for Meaningful Use Stage 2 are far tougher than the requirements to certify an EHR system in 2011.  Certifying under the 2011 rules was primarily done by sending data that passed a specific set of tests.  In some cases, this was hardcoded for the test and in a production system no longer worked.  The 2014 requirements ensure the EHR vendor’s systems pass legitimate data.  It is no longer possible to pre-pass these tests.  Because of this, I too believe many EHR vendors will leave the business.  Smaller shops that do not have the reach and resources to certify for 2014 will sell out or quit.  Large, inflexible companies will take too long and choose to sunset their EHR products.  Physicians looking for EHR systems this year must be better informed.  They need to exercise care and scrutinize their vendor before jumping into another solution that doesn’t work. Everyone must use a 2014-certified EHR to attest for Stage 2.  One consideration is that those purchasing 2014-certified EHRs can also use them to attest for Stage 1.

Finally, I agree that cloud-based systems are a very smart idea for smaller practices.  It takes a lot of money, staff, and time to build and manage an internal network to host EHR systems.  Independent physician practices should seek out cloud-based EHR offerings so they can focus on what they do best and let the EHR vendors manage the network.   It is smarter to host your EHR in the cloud for several reasons:

  1. Cloud systems are designed for high availability. Independent physicians cannot afford the infrastructure and Information Technology resources to do this themselves.
  2. Cloud systems are expandable.  As data and bandwidth volume grows, cloud-based system can quickly grow (or shrink) to accommodate this.  On-premise solutions are not this nimble.
  3. Cloud is cheaper.  You are sharing systems with other users and can leverage economies of scale.
  4. Cloud is secure.  Although this is a shared service, all competent EHR vendors designed their systems to support the security needed in a shared environment.  This model is also the model supported at most in-house hospitals and larger data centers.
  5. Cloud is interoperable.  As the fog lifts for Meaningful Use stage 3, we can expect more requirements for interoperability.  Hiring an EHR in the cloud is a strong first step.

2013 is a year for some very good and reasonable changes.  What are you waiting for?

Microsoft steps up to the HIPAA Compliance challenge in the Cloud

Prior to HIMSS 2011, I blogged about the 3 reasons for using a Managed Private Cloud for Interoperability.  In that blog, I noted that in healthcare circles, cloud computing conjures up fears for protecting private healthcare information and security compliance concerns.  In the last few weeks, Microsoft has introduced support for HIPAA compliance in their cloud platform called Windows Azure.  Microsoft will work with healthcare customers to comply with their own specific requirements and put in place a comprehensive compliance framework to meet HIPAA guidelines and secure a BAA for storing healthcare data in the cloud.  Microsoft is committed to providing Windows Azure customers with detailed information about their security compliance programs to help customers make their own regulatory assessments, but they opened the door for building a new class of healthcare applications in the Azure cloud.

HIPAA and the HITECH Act are United States laws that apply to healthcare entities with access to patient information (called Protected Health Information, or PHI). In many circumstances, for a covered healthcare company to use a cloud service like Windows Azure, the service provider must agree in a written agreement to adhere to certain security and privacy provisions set forth in HIPAA and the HITECH Act. To help customers comply with HIPAA and the HITECH Act, Microsoft now offers Enterprise Agreement (volume licensing) customers a BAA as a contract addendum.

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