Healthcare CIOs Opt for the Cloud

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media , October 18, 2012

Bengfort sees rapid growth for cloud computing in healthcare. "From a medical center standpoint, I tend to be a little bit more conservative about it,” he says. "It may not sound that way, because we're using a lot of cloud today, but we're using things that either we've been personally involved in developing the criteria for, much like the Dell example, or they are quite mature, proven rock solid.

"When you are providing care to patients, the closer it is to the patient, the more rock solid it has to be,” says Bengfort. "I love innovation. I hope you can tell I'm certainly pushing the edges where I can, but when it comes to patient care, it's got to be a well-proven and very secure environment. From a medical center standpoint, I might be a little more cautious than we're going to be on the university or the research side, where we can be a little bit more assertive about what we push into the cloud. So that's kind of just the high level of it, but I certainly think leveraging capabilities like this are going to be more and more prevalent as we move forward.”

Another concern is to address service expectations with the vendor.

"The contractual arrangements that you have in your agreement are really key,” Cantrell says. "I don't think you can shortchange that process, because you do want to define pretty clearly what your service-level expectations are, not only from a performance perspective, but also from a turnaround time perspective, if you happen to have an issue.”

The cloud also represents a starting point for many future innovative healthcare technologies. "In
the home healthcare space, where you're sending patients home with monitors and telemetry data is being sent back out, I would see using a cloud-based service to gather that data, process that data, maybe analyze it, have certain thresholds, certain trends that they're analyzing for,” Bengfort says. "I would see that as a great innovative service for the cloud that doesn't exist today, specifically for the healthcare space.

"We could probably come up with lots of examples as we start to push accountable care organizations and we're trying to manage proactively the health of a community before they ever even present at the hospital or at the clinic,” Bengfort says. "There's got to be creative cloud-based solutions to help provide services to those accountable care groups.”

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This article appears in the October 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Scott Mace is senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media.
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2 comments on "Healthcare CIOs Opt for the Cloud"

Erin Gilmer (10/24/2012 at 11:15 AM)
Really good article, well researched. I think there was short shrift given to HIPAA concerns in the cloud. Though some cloud providers are more versed in legal requirements and implications, most are not. Cloud providers are starting to realize they need to take this more seriously but still are often unwilling to complete business associate agreements. And there are real concerns with cloud services that all levels of health care providers and vendors are not aware of. I think though the benefits discussed here are important, more consideration must be given to the legal side. Because HIPAA compliant is more than just encryption and backup storage - most of the law is focused on policies and procedures, training, and responding to breaches. HITECH regulations are anticipated to change the landscapes of Business Associates, which include cloud providers. And the last issue not acknowledge are the international laws affecting cloud services. See this IBM developerWorks article for more information.

Dan Haley (10/22/2012 at 10:59 AM)
Great article. The fact that so much health IT is stuck in a 1990s technology rut is one of the biggest challenges facing cloud-focused innovators like the company where I work, athenahealth. The example in this article of a health system spending buckets of money to retrofit a legacy software system (which already cost buckets of money) for cloud storage is a perfect example. That makes no sense - none - when technology like ours that was developed for the cloud is readily available. As the writer points out, government incentives for rapid adoption of EHRs in a way exacerbated the problem, as systems rushed to purchase anachronistic, software-based systems, thereby putting technologies that should be phasing out on a few more years of life support. Some related thoughts here:




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