Opportunities in the Cloud

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media , October 15, 2012
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"We still have all the issues of patient information, PHI that has to be protected, that can't be shared unless it's agreed to by the patient, so you still have all those restrictions,” Bengfort says. "We've done a lot of work with Salesforce in certifying their environments for our PHI, so we think we're in good shape around all those issues.”

UCSF's boldest cloud move has been to develop a way to back up its new Epic medical records to the cloud. "All the infrastructure is in place,” Bengfort says. "We're replicating our data right now. We're through two rounds of disaster testing, and we're at a point now where we want to test the ability to not just fail over to switch to a redundant system but to fail back to restore the system to its original state.”

The capability is so new that the providing cloud vendor, Dell Healthcare, has only implemented it with UCSF, Bengfort says. This implementation was key to UCSF as it prepared to achieve compliance with Meaningful Use 2011; the 600-bed main hospital was on track to attest last month.

Those medical records predating the Epic system also found a home in the cloud. Legacy Data Access takes records from old medical systems and converts them to a format that can be stored and retrieved in the cloud. "They will custom-develop a webpage so you can see it in the format you want to see it back, and then you just pay a subscription service for the access to that data,” Bengfort says.

Some healthcare organizations laid solid groundwork for the move to the cloud by investing substantially in application virtualization some years back. "We've always been a proponent of looking at how we use computing resources on the fly without having to add a lot more hardware infrastructure and software licensing to go along with that,” says Dee Cantrell, CIO of
Emory Healthcare.

With more than 1,830 licensed beds, more than 20 health centers, and 9,000 employees, Atlanta-based Emory has partnered with GNAX for the past five years to provide niche clinical systems.

"I've actually taken work off of my technical team, who was previously having to work on setting up servers and getting the hardware connected appropriately with the network and making sure all the security safeguards were in place, as well as loading the applications, and of course with that comes a lot of licensing expenses,” Cantrell says. "Now, instead of doing that, we actually have our technical resources really focused more on going out and working with our customers, looking at strategy for new solutions, and working on implementing new things.

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