5 Keys to a Successful Cloud Implementation

NetgainCloud Computing, Healthcare IT

You’ve done your research and are ready to join the other 93% of the healthcare market seeing the value of cloud adoption, according to a survey by HIMSS Analytics. The decision to move to the cloud likely comes with the expectation and promise of a better user experience, stabilized IT costs, and an environment that positions your practice for future success and growth.

The onboarding project is often the first big collaboration between your practice and cloud provider. From our experience, this project sets the tone and expectations for the relationship moving forward.

Throughout the years, we’ve successfully deployed over 300 clinics onto our private cloud platform. Although every client has their own unique set of challenges, we see a common thread in our most successful projects. Here are five tips we’ve found help ensure a successful cloud implementation:

1. Begin with the end in mind.
When a practice starts looking at cloud computing, there’s likely an associated pain point – a reason leaders are looking at alternatives to the existing solution. Identify this reason and determine what an ideal end result should be. In a perfect world, how would this pain be addressed after the project? Discuss with your cloud provider to ensure this is a realistic expectation.

For many practices, “EHR performance” is their primary pain. Their ideal world would be one in which their EHR performs faster and more reliably. When we hear this, our first objective is to analyze the existing EHR’s technical environment to determine if it’s configured properly. Performance and reliability issues caused by server, networking, and storage misconfigurations are common and can often be alleviated through implementing best practices – something we excel at on our cloud platform. However, if performance issues are related to a poorly coded EHR product, the EHR will need to be engaged directly to determine when their development team plans to address the issue. In some instances, we have partnered with multiple clinics to discuss poor performance with an EHR, resulting in improved performance code.

Communicate your end-goal to your internal stakeholders and cloud provider. This “why” should be at the forefront of the cloud implementation discussion and the metric you measure decisions against. Ask your team, “will this decision allow us to accomplish our overall goal?”

2. Identify key stakeholders.
Most successful projects have one thing in common –a fully engaged project team. While your cloud provider is experienced in migrating systems to their platform, only your clinical team truly understands your history, purpose, workflows, and pain points. Every project needs a Project Sponsor from your team who represents the best interests of your practice, is available to communicate often with your cloud provider, and provides them access to your resources when needed. The Project Sponsor is typically a director-level position who understands and can articulate the reasoning and value behind moving to a cloud platform. Having this advocate within the practice will help speed the implementation process, keep an eye on your end-goal, and make for a smoother transition.

In addition to the Project Sponsor, an Executive Sponsor is also required. This person holds an executive-level position, acts as the cloud-advocate to the executive team, and is ultimately responsible to your practice for the success of the cloud implementation project. The Executive Sponsor understands what it means to move to the cloud and how it will impact the practice from a high-level. When the practice’s executive team, providers, and board understand how the cloud plays into the “big picture,” they take greater ownership in the project and are more supportive of the efforts. We find this support and ownership leads to greater adaptation and project satisfaction. For smaller clinics, this role may be held by the same person as the Project Sponsor.

3. Engage your technology providers early.
Migrating to a cloud environment requires a lot of coordination with your existing software and IT providers. If they’re not involved early in the process, the implementation project can be delayed significantly. Examples of technology providers include your EHR, telecommunications, or any line of business applications that play a part in the cloud environment. Engage these key players prior to signing a contract with a cloud provider to better understand a realistic implementation timeline, minimize unexpected delays, recognize potential costs incurred, and ensure everyone is aware of your expectations. Your cloud provider should be able to assist you in having these conversations if you’re uncomfortable doing so.

One of the roles of a Project Sponsor is to connect their cloud provider with these existing IT resources. Using your EHR as an example, it’s important your cloud provider understands your licensing and support arrangement, has the necessary media to prepare the environment, and has a point of contact to install and configure the EHR product. A great way to expedite this process is to contact your EHR Account Manager about authorizing your cloud provider to work directly with them on your behalf. This process should be repeated with all of your technology providers.

4. Understand your practice’s unique needs.
Although there are many workflow similarities within healthcare, each practice has a unique set of characteristics your cloud provider needs to be aware in order to successfully accommodate during the implementation project.

• User access and workflow
Consider all the ways, places and times your users access the system. For instance, providers might often log in late at night or during the early morning from home to catch up on charting. It’s important to communicate this to your cloud provider so they know that expectation. Maybe you have users who connect to your system from an affiliated regional hospital – this connection also needs to be considered and configured. The sooner your cloud provider knows about these unique needs, the more seamless the process will be.
Faxing, scanning, printing and other peripherals
Almost every clinic requires some form of faxing, scanning, and printing from their cloud environment. Outlining these workflow expectations and noting any specialty peripheral devices will make it easier for the cloud provider to incorporate them into the cloud environment.
• Support
End user and IT service support are often a significant factor in why practices chose to move to the cloud. Make sure you’ve read the SLA in detail to ensure the cloud provider is able to meet your needs as a business. Know your needs regarding response times to support requests and unscheduled downtime events. Talk to your cloud provider about any discrepancies your practice might have with the support agreement outlined in the SLA. In one common example, ensure your cloud provider is able to accommodate a scheduled maintenance window to minimally impact your clinic’s evening hours. Even if your clinic is open 24-7, cloud providers still need a maintenance window to routinely patch and reboot systems.

5. Identify test users and applications.
During your implementation project, you’ll have an opportunity to test your new cloud environment. Early on in the project, consider what types of users should be testing the environment based on their unique roles. Providers often have strong opinions when it comes to performance and usability, so it might be important to include a provider or two in your testing process.

Consider “power” users from other parts the practice, such as back-office, imaging, and remote-site users. These users each have unique needs and experiences when interacting with the system – ensure their happiness in your cloud environment by including a representative for them during the testing process. A key concept to remember: If it’s not tested during the testing process, it will be tested on the first day of operations!

A successful cloud implementation involves a knowledgeable, experienced cloud service provider and a well-prepared practice. When the cloud provider and practice understand the “why” of the project, operate from the same playbook, and are able to effectively communicate throughout the process, cloud implementation projects are wildly successful.

Ask your cloud provider how you can best prepare your practice for the cloud.