IT leaders at healthcare practices face immense pressure to find the holy grail of technical footprints. They seek something cost-effective, secure, and that delivers optimal ROI. Compounding that pressure is the fact that, in the minds of many of their executives and investors, that holy grail is the cloud.
Cloud computing is more than a trend; it’s here to stay. According to a research report by Global Market Insights, the size of the healthcare cloud computing market is on track to exceed $55 billion (USD) by 2025.
With nearly 20 years of experience in healthcare IT, our team is deeply familiar with the technical environments and considerations for specialty healthcare practices across the US. The following are answers to some of the questions we get most frequently about cloud computing. For a more personalized cloud analysis, specific to your practice’s needs, contact our experts.
QUESTION 1: “Should I be 100% Cloud?”
I’m a healthcare practice with hundreds of employees and multi-site operations. We use a cloud-based electronic health record, but still locally host several other applications. Should I be entirely in the cloud?
First, let’s establish a definition of what it means to be in the cloud and differentiate between public versus private clouds.
Most commonly, when people refer to the cloud, they’re talking about virtualized servers running on hardware you don’t own with a multi-tenant configuration; this is a public cloud. In cases where you own the physical servers and host virtual servers on them, you essentially have your own private cloud. For purposes of this FAQ, we are not referring to “pure-cloud” applications that are delivered 100% via web browser and maintained by the software vendor. A few mainstream examples of those, in our client base, would be Athena Health or specialty systems like FlatIron’s OncoEMR.
Based on the still-high costs of pure public cloud, our experts find that the best practice is to design a combination using both public and private clouds. Consider an appropriately-sized private cloud to run key production software that would otherwise generate large amounts of consumption-based billing on a public cloud like Amazon or Azure.
Typically the ROI, in this case, is less than 24 months for purchasing enterprise-grade server hardware and hosting your own private cloud. There are many other use-cases where a public cloud makes a lot of sense right now, including for bulk data storage and disaster recovery. Consider services like AWS, S3, or Wasabi to capitalize on inexpensive storage and keep the size of your private cloud as small as possible.
In some cases, moving certain applications directly to the cloud provides immediate savings in support and operating costs. Examples would include Office 365 and “Cloud Hosting,” another sometimes cost-effective option between a pure-cloud application and a private cloud.
QUESTION 2: Private Cloud
Will I always need to have or host some hardware in a private cloud setup?
This answer will change over time as the costs of public cloud drop. Two of the biggest drivers of cost in using the public cloud for hosting production servers is the cost of the ingress and egress of data, so essentially how much data are you uploading or downloading or changing daily, and the amount of CPU processing power needed.
Since most healthcare applications typically have high data change rates and use a lot of processing, it is often cheaper to host them in a private cloud. Still, we suspect this will shift over time, and at some point, it will no longer be advantageous to maintain your own private cloud.
QUESTION 3: Managing my Cloud
How do I keep track of all of this?
The array of options available to healthcare practices requires specific expertise to build and maintain a plan that matches the business’s specific needs. Path Forward customers receive a quarterly business review and an updated minimum security requirements checklist. As part of this quarterly review, we provide a 24-month forecast of hardware needs for the internal private cloud, as well as recommendations for migrating to the public cloud cost-effectively over time.
With the ever-changing landscape of cloud technologies and emerging cloud providers, there isn’t a substitute for doing your research and updating your plan at least four times a year!
Have a question about your IT configuration?
If you don’t see the answer to your question here, drop us a line or use our live chat website feature. We’re happy to work with you to sort out the best blended-cloud configuration for your healthcare practice.