Healthcare practices throughout the country are moving part or all of their IT infrastructure to one of several models of “the cloud.” The cloud computing model has proven to be an effective method for both large and small practices. Still, there is some uncertainty about when the right time is to utilize cloud computing and what problems it solves.
Here are five key indicators that a practice is ready for the cloud.
1. Budgetary Changes
Some practices’ cash flow lends well to large capital investments, so a traditional model of computing works well. But for other practices, these large expenditures can cause problems, especially when they’re unexpected.
Cloud computing offers a model that transforms IT costs from a capital expense to a predictable operating expense. This makes budgeting easier while freeing cash flow to invest in other technologies that give the practice a competitive edge and improve patient care.
2. Staffing Needs
Various staffing issues can contribute to a practice’s decision to move to the cloud. When a practice doesn’t have the staff necessary to implement, grow and manage an IT environment, they look to alternative options. The cloud is one of those options.
For some practices, the issue can be losing a tenured IT person. This IT person may be the only person in the organization that knows the intricacies of your environment. Using the cloud can help your practice more quickly recover from an employee-loss. Cloud computing spreads the responsibility and liability of IT across a team of healthcare IT specialists, rather than just one person.
For other practices, in rural areas especially, the issue may be finding and retaining qualified IT staff. IT specialists in storage, networking and virtualization can be especially difficult to find, making it challenging for practices to employ the right resources for their needs. With cloud providers, practices have access to a whole team of specialists in various areas of IT.
3. Compliance Gaps
The HIPAA Security Rule requires that covered entities conduct a risk assessment of their healthcare organization to ensure compliance. This risk assessment reveals areas where practice’s ePHI could be at risk.
Following a risk assessment, many practices have a laundry list of items to complete to bring their practice to compliance. These items may range from easily implemented tasks to large, expensive initiatives. Unfortunately, many practices don’t take action on these items because of the complexity or cost of the project. Ignoring these gaps leaves the practice and their ePHI at risk.
Cloud providers are considered Business Associates under HIPAA’s Security Rule. They carry a Business Associates Agreement (BAA) with the practices in their cloud. A BAA puts more liability on the cloud provider and lessens the responsibility of the practice. Practices work closely with their cloud providers to ensure their Security Assessment gaps are addressed adequately.
4. EHR Software Changes
When a practice implements a new EHR, switches platforms or faces a major version upgrade, it can also mean significant infrastructure changes. This initiative can be extremely time, budget and resource intensive.
With EHR platform changes, practices often experience a need for updated hardware and additional storage. In a traditional computing environment, this means a significant, upfront investment in resources. In the cloud, this means the simple procurement of required resources and a monthly fee based on resource consumption.
5. Practice Growth
Growth is very exciting for practices, whether its adding providers, staff or new locations. Growth can also be a very complex and expensive time for the practice, if their IT environment isn’t set-up to easily accommodate these changes.
Often times when practices grow, their IT environment becomes more complex. This is caused by the need for additional storage, remote login capabilities, networking requirements and other IT needs. In a cloud environment, though, practice growth is handled more quickly and securely with the procurement of necessary resources by your cloud provider. Practices save considerable amounts of time when launching new staff or locations in the cloud.
These are just a few indicators that your practice may be ready to move to the cloud; there are many more. Is your practice experiencing any of these issues?
Once you’ve made the decision to move to the cloud, the next step is determining what type of cloud is right for your practice. We have you covered. Check out our blog on public vs. private cloud computing to get a better idea of what’s right for your practice. Or, reach out to one of our cloud experts!