You may have an EHR system, decision support systems, purchasing, payroll, laboratory, pharmacy, personnel, finance, planning, and a myriad of other systems running on hardware that’s getting very long in the tooth.

healthcare cloud

Many PCs are still running some older version of Windows. These issues can be a constant source of security headaches for the IT staff of today’s healthcare organization. From causing security breaches to all-out system failures, this type of trouble can cost your health organization money. In addition, your staff will not have the modern tools they need to do their jobs.

The cloud vendors see your suffering, and, as they are kind, they offer to take this all off your hands and move all your IT operations to the cloud. “For how much?” you ask. “Between $35 and $165 per seat per month,” they reply. You are taken aback. $35 per seat per month is about what you’re paying for Microsoft Office Enterprise, which, you dimly recall, sort of runs in the cloud, or at least it can. What a deal! Where do you sign?

What Was That You Said About Cost Again?

The first thing you realize is that cost is the actual cost of cloud operations once the migration has been completed. Nothing was said (yet) about the cost of moving to the cloud. Digging deeper, you note that the amount charged will vary by processor load, storage used, and “egress” – the cost of moving your data out of the cloud vendor’s data centers down to your PCs, smartphones, and tablets. You quickly discover that if all you want to do is store your data, the cloud is an incredible bargain. If you want to use your data, on the other hand, then this is a whole different story.

There are two choices when it comes to the Cloud: the private and the public cloud. In addition, there are two big vendors: Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft’s Azure.

So many choices to make and it’s important to make the right ones in order to get exactly what your healthcare organization needs without paying too much.

If your hospital is located in a rural area with practices spread far and wide, then your healthcare facility will need many different services than if you are a single large hospital in a big city. Keeping all of this info on a yellow legal pad may not be ideal. With so many different choices to make, it can be beneficial to work with a trusted IT consultant instead.

There are so many decisions to make and it’s important to find the right IT provider who will oversee everything from start to finish. If you run a busy healthcare facility, you probably don’t have the time or the skills to do all this work yourself. Once you find the right IT service provider, work very closely with them to develop a migration plan, an infrastructure plan, a schedule for moving services, backup storage, and security services.

So, What Are The Real Cloud Advantages?

Moving your operations to the cloud has four substantial advantages:

  1. You no longer have to worry about back-end hardware. All that goes away, except for the servers that interface with the cloud.
  2. You no longer have to worry about capacity, in terms of processor load, memory, or storage. Whatever you need, the cloud provides.
  3. Your security worries will be, not eliminated, but drastically reduced.
  4. You will be able to reduce your in-house IT staff, possibly substantially.

These benefits are arguably worth a tidy sum to most healthcare organizations. AWS, Azure, and a private cloud can provide all of them. So how do you choose?

How Do I Choose The Vendor?

The first thing you need to realize is that you will need a redundant, “failover” site that automatically comes online if the cloud provider’s main site for your applications is down. This does happen – Amazon ran into this issue with its own site on Prime Day 2018.

The cost of this is not automatically included, and it can be substantial. The second thing is that private clouds, where the vendor can treat you as a sole client, are much more configurable than the public cloud (AWS or Azure), which has to be configured to support all comers. Of course, if the situation demands it, you can run part of your operations in a private cloud, and the rest in the public cloud; setting up communication between them is relatively easy.

Should I Wade In Or Jump In?

McKinsey, the renowned consulting firm, has studied both failed and successful cloud migrations and recommends a phased approach. Of course, no solution is one-size-fits-all, but there is a good deal of thought and expertise behind their recommendations. In other words, they say wade in, don’t jump in.

Wading rather than jumping allows you to:

  • Test the feasibility of cloud migrations
  • Orient your IT staff to cloud operations
  • Distribute costs over time
  • End the project gracefully if it is proving infeasible

Wading will also give you a much more realistic appreciation of the costs and the benefits that are involved.

So, What’s The Bottom Live?

Unless the IT gods are smiling at your organization, you will not be running all your IT operations in the cloud for the $35 you pay for Microsoft Office Enterprise. When site redundancy, egress costs, and processor surge demands are considered, your total costs per seat per month are likely to be higher than this.

When you consider that cost versus a realistic assessment of your current costs (including hardware, software, staff costs, network costs, electricity, cooling, backup, and security), moving to the cloud may still be a bargain. It totally depends on your organization’s needs and the way it handles data. With most healthcare organizations growing by leaps and bounds and considering the high demands that doctors and patients place on the healthcare system, there’s every reason to believe that you will eventually have to make the switch.