Heading for hybrid: Cloud and the healthcare industry
Dr. Tim Calahan, Director of Healthcare Product Strategy & Management at Virtustream gives his analysis of the state of cloud in the global healthcare space.
A fundamental change is underway in the healthcare industry. Hospitals, walk-in centers and doctor’s offices are undergoing a digital transformation, integrating their electronic health record (EHR) platforms with new patient engagement systems and emerging precision health platforms. They have three primary goals: improve the quality of care, empower patients to take control of their health, and reduce the cost of IT operations.
The increasing complexity of the healthcare IT landscape is driving healthcare organisations to consider new options that can embrace digital strategies and increase agility while reducing costs. Worldwide, security mandates are understandably strict to protect personal health information, with country-level regulations and requirements adding additional layers of complexity. While on-premises solutions may offer perceived advantages, industry leading healthcare providers are closely examining enterprise cloud options for hybrid and off-premises deployment models that meet or exceed high security and compliance requirements, while offering utility-based billing and cloud-based agility and flexibility. For enabling digital healthcare transformation, enterprise cloud services provide a host of avenues to support healthcare providers.
Cloud enables healthcare transformation
While there are plenty of drivers for healthcare providers to adopt a cloud solution, there are also several factors inherent to a cloud offering that make this model attractive for more widespread adoption. A cloud solution can enable the transformation of hospitals, walk-in centers and doctor’s facilities by providing benefits that cannot be delivered through an on-premises deployment. Cloud deployments can address the changing budgetary needs of healthcare providers by shifting budgets to an operating model, thereby stabilising IT spend. Not only can a cloud platform cost less than an on-premises option, but it can also provide a greater time-to-value for the investment. This value is seen through lower startup costs, non-disruptive upgrades, increased agility to easily redeploy infrastructure resources, pay-for-use models, and the flexibility to scale-up resources during intensive development and usage, and, in turn, scale-down resources based on an organisation’s needs.
Enterprise cloud services can also provide the highest service levels for availability. Built with redundancy and business continuity by design, a managed EHR platform, when overseen by an enterprise-class cloud provider, can deliver up to 99.999% service level agreements (SLAs) for infrastructure availability, which is less than 6 minutes of unplanned downtime per year. Conversely, an on-premises solution can face limitations in the speed of deployment and scalability and it could be costly to meet comparable business continuity guarantees.
Hybrid is the way for healthcare IT
Hybrid architectures for mission-critical, highly connected environments are not new. In fact, it is the most common deployment model today. Enterprises regularly leverage and combine legacy on-premises environments with off-premises cloud services. The cloud environment must be thoroughly controlled, blending the best practices, procedures and security standards of both the healthcare provider and the partnering cloud company. It’s important to partner with an enterprise cloud service provider with deep experience working with healthcare organisations, and with experts on staff for planning, ongoing support and consultation.
Also, the application interdependencies need to be well understood. For example, it’s advised to have applications with high data interchange rates or with very low latency requirements to reside in the same location. This means that during the planning and assessment phase of any potential migration it’s critical to keenly understand the application landscape and varying performance requirements.
When moving any part of the healthcare IT landscape, including the EHR systems, to a cloud solution, it’s imperative to know who manages the applications and the interfaces that keep data moving smoothly between the separate systems. It’s also important to distinguish between the infrastructure operations in addition to the technical and the functional management of the applications. It must be well scoped, correctly implemented and comprehensively managed. When done correctly, the management of the entire healthcare IT landscape can provide the same or better service than an on-premises model, with potentially much lower delivery costs.
What to look for in a cloud provider
Healthcare organisations should partner with a cloud service provider that offers a full suite of security and compliance capabilities, guarantees the safety and security of patients’ health data, and delivers true “cloud” benefits such as pay-as-you-go, scale-up, scale-down and rapid deployment. Also, make sure there is always someone to call: a 24/7 white-glove service is critical to keeping healthcare IT systems, including EHRs, running around the clock while compressing costs. A 24/7 service will provide for rapid incident resolution, effectively dealing with problems as incidents become apparent. Lastly, healthcare organisations should search for a cloud provider who can monitor and manage the cloud environment to deliver proactive governance and preventative measures to determine potential issues and deal with them before they become a threat.
By choosing a cloud provider who can provide this level of performance, governance and security along with the utility cost benefits and flexibility of a cloud environment, a healthcare provider can make a positive impact on its current IT infrastructure. Additionally, the healthcare provider can efficiently and effectively modernise its systems and applications and transform IT to be future-ready, freeing the provider to put its attention on what matters most – the health and wellness of its patients.
Intelliwave SiteSense boosts APTIM material tracking
“We’ve been engaged with the APTIM team since early 2019 providing SiteSense, our mobile construction SaaS solution, for their maintenance and construction projects, allowing them to track materials and equipment, and manage inventory.
We have been working with the APTIM team to standardize material tracking processes and procedures, ultimately with the goal of reducing the amount of time spent looking for materials. Industry studies show that better management of materials can lead to a 16% increase in craft labour productivity.
Everyone knows construction is one of the oldest industries but it’s one of the least tech driven comparatively. About 95% of Engineering and Construction data captured goes unused, 13% of working hours are spent looking for data and around 30% of companies have applications that don’t integrate.
With APTIM, we’re looking at early risk detection, through predictive analysis and forecasting of material constraints, integrating with the ecosystem of software platforms and reporting on real-time data with a ‘field-first’ focus – through initiatives like the Digital Foreman. The APTIM team has seen great wins in the field, utilising bar-code technology, to check in thousands of material items quickly compared to manual methods.
There are three key areas when it comes to successful Materials Management in the software sector – culture, technology, and vendor engagement.
Given the state of world affairs, access to data needs to be off site via the cloud to support remote working conditions, providing a ‘single source of truth’ accessed by many parties; the tech sector is always growing, so companies need faster and more reliable access to this cloud data; digital supply chain initiatives engage vendors a lot earlier in the process to drive collaboration and to engage with their clients, which gives more assurance as there is more emphasis on automating data capture.
It’s been a challenging period with the pandemic, particularly for the supply chain. Look what happened in the Suez Canal – things can suddenly impact material costs and availability, and you really have to be more efficient to survive and succeed. Virtual system access can solve some issues and you need to look at data access in a wider net.
Solving problems comes down to better visibility, and proactively solving issues with vendors and enabling construction teams to execute their work. The biggest cause of delays is not being able to provide teams with what they need.
On average 2% of materials are lost or re-ordered, which only factors in the material cost, what is not captured is the duplicated effort of procurement, vendor and shipping costs, all of which have an environmental impact.
As things start to stabilise, APTIM continues to utilize SiteSense to boost efficiencies and solve productivity issues proactively. Integrating with 3D/4D modelling is just the precipice of what we can do. Access to data can help you firm up bids to win work, to make better cost estimates, and AI and ML are the next phase, providing an eco-system of tools.
A key focus for Intelliwave and APTIM is to increase the availability of data, whether it’s creating a data warehouse for visualisations or increasing integrations to provide additional value. We want to move to a more of an enterprise usage phase – up to now it’s been project based – so more people can access data in real time.