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Cloud Migration Considerations in Healthcare

Patient's Guide to Healthcare Journey Maps

In my previous blogs I discussed a variety of non-traditional technology delivery methods including outsourcing and utilization of cloud-based service offerings. My last blog focused on the cloud and that, while healthcare is historically slower than most industries to implement newer technical trends, cloud services in one form or another are used by most providers today and expectations are that further deployment in the cloud will increase dramatically over the next 5 years.

I thought I would write one more blog related to cloud migration about some of the key considerations related to cloud migration.

The first step may sound pretty basic but it is critical in order to select a vendor(s) and make the other necessary decisions. That is to fully understand the strategic business goals of your cloud migration.

For example, is it totally cost driven, is there a need for enhanced application support instead of what can be provided locally, are there leases on building and/or equipment coming up that are driving the timing of a cloud migration or maybe are there data access and collaboration requirement not easily met with the current infrastructure. According to a 2016 HIMSS Analytics survey, the top reason for cloud migration at that time was increased performance and reliability.

Other reasons like the ability to quickly adapt to changing infrastructure needs and cost were also listed as important drivers. You still see these as reasons for cloud migration but we are also seeing the need to deal with increasing amounts of data, requirements for data sharing with outside organizations and access to advanced analytics tools as considerations when considering cloud services.

Once you have determined the overall business goals of the proposed cloud migration and what you hope to achieve from it you can focus on more tactical, although very important, considerations. These can include areas like anticipated bandwidth requirements.

The last thing you want to do is move processing to the cloud and have degraded performance. The applications that typically work best in a cloud environment are those that are not transferring large amount of data.

However, there are ways to quickly access even data-intensive applications but considerations like distance to the cloud hosting site, bandwidth and how data is actually transferred between the locations is much more important for those applications.

Security and privacy are also critical considerations. While cloud vendors are fully aware of HIPAA, and similar-such regulations, and are taking steps through certifications, contractual remedies and technology solutions to better ensure compliance, the provider is still ultimately responsible for this area.

Therefore, it is critical that any consideration of a cloud vendor include a comprehensive review of their security and privacy policies and procedures plus clear documentation of the ability to audit or otherwise ensure all the appropriate steps are being followed.

In addition, you need to consider the mix of public or private cloud services for your organization. Many providers currently run private clouds due to a desire to have “ownership” of the environment and also due to concerns over security provided by public cloud providers.

While this is better than having the processing in-house it still doesn’t fully tap the cost savings and flexibility available through public cloud services. Most organizations are expected to have multiple cloud vendors with a mix of both private cloud hosting as well as utilizing a public cloud based on the specific applications or data stores being considered.

This combination is known a hybrid cloud solution. However, the percentage hosted by public cloud providers is expected to grow significantly as the industry becomes more comfortable with their delivery model.

Defining the appropriate mix of providers in your, most likely, hybrid cloud solution is part of the overall migration strategy.

The key to getting started is understanding the business requirements, the current readiness of your organization for cloud migration and then developing the appropriate migration plan for you.  Perficient has assisted many of our customers in this journey.

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Alan Cranford, Director, Client Services

Alan Cranford is a client services director within Perficient's national healthcare practice. Alan has more than 30 years of technology and healthcare industry experience, including former stints as CIO at two different hospital management companies. He has a broad background in software development, consulting and senior healthcare IT management.

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