A cloud-first strategy provides flexibility, with careful negotiation

Atrium Health and Children’s Mercy Hospital shared their experience with a complete transition to the cloud.
By Gus Venditto
07:14 PM
cloud computing platforms for healthcare

LAS VEGAS – A cloud-first strategy can provide greater flexibility for application development, but healthcare IT professionals need to be careful as they approach negotiations with cloud vendors. That was the message more than 200 attendees heard at the Cloud Computing Forum held today as part of HIMSS18 pre-conference education.

Pam DeSalvo Landis, vice president of information and analytics, Atrium Health said that she became determined to move her systems out of the enterprise data warehouse when a project was held up for three months while the data engineers waited for delivery of a special SAN cable. She vowed never to have a project held up by a delay in obtaining hardware at the data warehouse.

Atrium is placing all new application development on its cloud platform and her goal is to move all legacy systems and to be completely in the cloud by 2019.

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She said that while Atrium doesn’t have specific plans for what they’ll do with their data center, she noted that “it sits on valuable real estate.”

She said that now that Atrium has committed its data serving architecture to the cloud, the health system is benefiting from having a more agile computing environment. The staff is able to spend their time working on improving the applications available for supporting clinical outcomes, and less time maintaining systems.

Landis advised the audience that the process of moving data and applications into the cloud required special attention to data governance. But now that the health system has established more formal definitions around the needs for systems and the rules governing access, it has a much better foundation for how it manages processes.

Dave Chou, chief information and digital officer, Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas City, shared his vision on how to operationalize a cloud-first strategy with a series of caveats.

He said that one of the primary considerations for IT management is whether you have the right staff. “Do they know how to configure it? Are they thinking cloud first?”

He also it was important to think about how to design the overall architecture to be secure; the cloud environment may be secure but you need to look at the rest of your architecture to ensure you have built a secure environment.

And there are budget considerations, Chou said. “Your capital expenditures will go down but your operation expenses are going to shoot up.”

Chou said that in negotiating a cloud contract, be on the lookout for language that applies to ownership of data and be careful to strike out any language that would suggest your data is not owned exclusively by your system.

And he advised the audience to be aware of the billing start date. “If you’re not ready to go live, why would you pay for the first six months of operating costs?” And make sure you have some price protection when the contract ends “so you don’t face a 100 percent price increase.”

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Twitter: @GusVenditto
Email the writer: gus.venditto@himssmedia.com

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