Healthcare organizations need to perform a wellness check on their compute and data storage capabilities.
According to the Forrester Research, Inc. report, 2014 Technology Imperatives for US Healthcare Providers (Skip Snow, February 28, 2014), healthcare organizations have several critical issues to address, including cleaning up their data infrastructure, embracing the mobile mind shift, utilizing emerging technology, and building cloud-based business networks.
Couple these recommendations with the vigorously enforced HIPAA/HITECH compliance regulations and the healthcare industry has its work cut out for it. Organizations need to find a compliant, secure solution that can adapt to and support these changes while remaining compliant and secure.
Enter the hybrid cloud strategy.
Able to support existing data center and private cloud environments with multiple service delivery models, a hybrid cloud strategy can offer reduced costs, improved performance and increased scalability and flexibility to address changing needs on an ongoing basis. Healthcare organizations stand to inherit tremendous benefits.
Reevaluating data infrastructure. As more confidential records and critical communications – such as patient records and interoffice communications – are stored digitally, there is a driving need for additional storage space. A hybrid cloud strategy offers healthcare providers the means to scale resources to meet long- and short-term needs. By acquiring additional storage capacity as they need it, whether for long-term data storage or short-term spikes in usage, healthcare enterprises are able to meet their needs without the high capital costs of building additional data centers or paying for underutilized capacity. By employing a hybrid cloud strategy, IT dollars are maximized and efficiency and elasticity realized.
Compliance and Security. Patient privacy and record confidentiality have always been key concerns of the healthcare industry. With HIPAA and HITECH regulations, strong information security is more critical than ever. Operating under HIPAA- and HITECH guidelines, healthcare providers have a lot to lose by deploying insecure infrastructure that jeopardizes critical or confidential data. As the healthcare industry continues to expand its interaction with third parties, such as pharmacies, specialists and payment brokers, the potential for an information security breach increases. ealthcare organizations need to do their due diligence to ensure their HIPAA/HITECH compliance, and working with a cloud service provider (CSP) – like Peak 10 which is audited for HIPAA compliance ─ can be a starting point.
The mobile world. The increasing use of personal mobile devices in healthcare increases the risk of security issues as it is not feasible for healthcare organizations to secure each individual device. A CSP can supplement existing infrastructure to provide an outsourced, but centralized location for the data to reside. By centralizing the data in a secure location — rather than securing individual devises — organizations create a more controlled environment for their mobile computing needs.
Emerging technologies. Among other responsibilities, IT staffs need to control access to critical or confidential data, monitor for unusual activity to identify and eliminate potential risks, and research new technology and applications to improve performance, manage costs, and remain competitive. CIOs and CSIOs are becoming more focused on how technology can help or hinder business objectives. A hybrid cloud solution that incorporates managed services presents an opportunity to increase security, maintain compliance, improve functionality and flexibility, and offer scalability – all while managing costs. These outsourced managed services can benefit the entire IT department.
Cloud-based capabilities. Healthcare organizations – like most businesses – cannot afford downtime, making disaster recovery (DR) an essential undertaking. Finding a secondary site and then conducting scheduled maintenance and testing, can exhaust IT resources. With a hybrid cloud solution that incorporates DR functionality, the secondary site can be outsourced to ensure geographic diversity, while the security and operation of the system can be managed and maintained by the provider, resulting in improved recovery time and resource allocation.
Legacy systems and applications are expensive business investments, and it is neither cost-effective nor efficient to completely move away from them while they are still operational. However, as data usage continues to soar and other business needs surface, a hybrid model can integrate existing infrastructure with outsourced cloud capabilities. This hybrid solution allows providers to leverage cloud capabilities such as flexibility, scalability and the reduced costs associated with multi-tenancy without abandoning existing infrastructure.
Hybrid cloud capabilities can help healthcare organizations improve their efficiency and cost-effectiveness. By supplementing existing capability, a hybrid cloud solution can provide a scalability and flexibility that legacy systems cannot. As business needs continue to evolve and data usage continues to grow, a hybrid cloud solution may be just what the doctor ordered.