Healthcare in the multi-cloud: Moving from laggard to leader
As cloud adoption in the healthcare industry becomes increasingly mainstream, organizations need to go beyond simple cost-cutting considerations and develop enterprise-wide strategies for optimizing their multi-cloud investments. Cloud may be the ideal solution to address the need for flexibility and agility in a connected health ecosystem, but a proliferation of siloed cloud-based services and tools will erode the economic and innovation benefits originally intended. A proactive, disciplined approach is necessary to optimize the performance and availability of hybrid, multi-cloud environments, and to effectively integrate data and applications within and beyond the four walls of the enterprise.
Let’s face it, historically speaking, the healthcare industry has rarely been considered a trend setter in information technology adoption. This “laggard” reputation has often been measured on the basis of IT spend as a percentage of total revenues – not necessarily the most meaningful or relevant metric. But persistent budget pressures across the industry and difficulty attracting and retaining top talent have conspired to reinforce the image.
However, in the current era of digital innovation, data-driven transformation and rapid evolution of new technologies such as AI, blockchain, robotics and IoT, healthcare suddenly finds itself at the forefront of next-generation adoption. No other industry can match the societal and individual impact that healthcare innovation can have on the human condition.
The willingness to embrace this new paradigm as a technology leader is evident in healthcare’s rapid adoption of cloud services as a de facto operating standard. According to a recent HIMSS Media survey, by the end of 2018 nearly 50 percent of the enterprise workload in healthcare will be deployed in “the cloud.”1 Organizations have become accustomed to leveraging cloud for its obvious benefits, including:
- Flexibility and scalability to response to dynamic workloads
- Fast and easy resource provisioning
- Agility in new application development and deployment
But the same factors that make cloud an obvious choice for speed and efficiency can also result in a proliferation of cloud services and provider platforms increasing complexity and management costs in an emerging hybrid environment. According to Forrester Research, as they struggle to accelerate their digital transformation journey, “cloud adoption is changing the way that healthcare organizations work by allowing them to develop a range of strategic partnerships to bring in new capabilities to serve their customers.”2
In many cases they are augmenting their own private cloud instances with infrastructure and application-development services from leading cloud providers, while deploying any number of third-party SaaS-delivered solutions to support electronic records, patient engagement, clinical decision support, virtual care and more. But this new de facto standard of multi-cloud brings with it a host of related challenges. Having multiple providers often translates to multiple disparate and sometime proprietary tool sets for managing security, compliance and data governance – incompatible data models and may limit application integration. A lack of common administrative, development and deployment management standards can quickly eat up projected cost savings.
Furthermore, digital transformation in healthcare is a data dependent endeavor. The failure to deploy a flexible, scalable hybrid data management architecture across multiple cloud instances can result in restricted access to data silos and limited ability to apply machine learning, AI and predictive analytics technologies to innovations in personalized health, precision medicine and other business imperatives.
What’s needed is a proactive and comprehensive approach to planning for and optimizing a multi-cloud reality, but quite frankly few health groups and health plans are equipped to go it alone. Health groups and health plans should partner with a trusted IT company that has developed a range of secure, integrated solutions that are powered by AI and automation – solutions that can provide better control to clients of their operations and application performance, while optimizing investments and control across their mixed, multi-cloud environments.
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- Cloud Computing Survey. HIMSS Media. November 2017.
- CIOs Must Innovate or Perish: Cloud Adoption Is Essential As Healthcare CIOs Brace For Disruption From Big Tech. Forrester Brief. April 2018.