The ‘What, When And Why’ Of Healthcare Data In The Cloud

By Jesse Eichhorn

The move to the cloud in healthcare is upon us. Healthcare providers have become more comfortable with the level of security and economics the cloud offers, caregivers can have confidence in the availability of data stored in the cloud and more vendors are offering solutions native to the cloud. The great data center contraction is afoot!

Of course, “moving to the cloud” is a vague concept. To fully embrace the cloud as part of a comprehensive IT strategy, many questions must first be answered.

We recently asked some of these key questions to an all-star panel of healthcare IT leaders from Microsoft, Johns Hopkins and Commvault in a discussion entitled “5 Questions to Ask Before Moving Healthcare Data to the Cloud.”

One of the key questions we posed: “What is your strategy to move your data to the cloud?” There are public, private and hybrid cloud environments – and there are hundreds of applications, infrastructure and data sets that can potentially be moved. Where to start?

Stats show healthcare data is moving to the cloud

Commvault recently took a look at some of the evolving trends around healthcare data moving to the cloud in a survey conducted by HIMSS Analytics. A couple of key insights we uncovered:

  • The cloud is becoming an increasingly popular option for backup and disaster recovery. Sixty percent of survey respondents cited using the cloud for these purposes, while just 38 percent of the healthcare professionals who participated in the “Essentials Brief: 2017 Cloud Study” – just eight months prior in January 2017 – indicated they were doing so
  • At 51 percent, the number of participants utilizing the cloud for clinical applications and data grew notably from the survey earlier in the year, and now stands third behind backups and data recovery and HIE as the top cloud-based services in use by provider organizations surveyed

With these insights in mind, how did our panel respond?

Leaders share: why healthcare data in the cloud

“Much of [our move toward a hybrid cloud infrastructure] started with non-critical or less restrictive data; certainly lots of test data first,” said Steve Sears, Director of Cloud and Virtualization Services at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

“The big value of that [approach] is that it allowed us to do things at scale and build skill, security and baseline performance for our staff, and really get some understanding of what these platforms could do for us. Moving on to production data, we really start with things that don’t directly affect our customers. So, we may not have as many stakeholders involved in things like file services or backup data. The approval and compliance processes are a little bit easier to deal with as long as we do all our due diligence up front.”

The benefit of this approach, according to Sears is, “The scale is large. … We have been able to use that type of environment to help us understand bottlenecks and really drive requirements around networking and around the capabilities of the products we use.”

This is especially important as providers look to move more of their production clinical data to the cloud.

When you are considering – or in the process of – embracing the cloud as part of your overall infrastructure plan and can benefit from some of the insight shared, our on-demand webinar, “5 Questions to Answer Before Moving Healthcare Data to the Cloud,” will help ensure you have an answer for the key questions posed.

As is the case with most endeavors, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.