The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has hundreds of pages of new requirements and regulations which are placing demands on all healthcare providers — impacting facilities of different sizes in a variety of ways. While larger hospitals may seem more equipped to respond to certain ACA-mandated milestones, those who may have been struggling financially prior to the bill, or may have had a poor payer mix (meaning they depend heavily on Medicare and Medicaid for reimbursement) are having just as tough a time as smaller hospitals who lack the funds to implement expensive and widespread electronic health record systems (EHRs).
The implication for the entire healthcare ecosystem is that no matter where they happen to be in the patient-provider-billing cycle, they need help.
Healthcare and the Cloud
Simply defined, cloud computing enables healthcare organizations and practices to manage their applications remotely, shifting costs from managing physical servers and hard drives to hiring vendors who have access to best-in-class IT talent. Since key applications and data are stored, accessed and controlled over the Internet, everyone involved in delivering care — from physicians to support staff and Internet of Things — are now part of a more flexible, scalable and efficient ecosystem.
Due to regulations such as ACA and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), cloud computing has become mainstream for many types of applications and data, and will underpin the majority of technology investments moving forward. Healthcare organizations who were early cloud adopters have realized key benefits from converged infrastructure and shared services, including:
20-40% savings on upfront information technology costs
Increased technology environment resiliency
Rapid deployment of new clinical applications
Accessibility independent of location
The ability to quickly reallocate and redeploy resources in an ever changing clinical and revenue cycle environment
The healthcare industry is reliant on the advancements in technology to not only meet the requirements of its heavily regulated environment but to handle a projected 48% annual increase in data. A recent study by the IDC found that 93% of all information in the healthcare digital space needs storage, and protection, which includes medical records, claims histories and patient protected health information (PHI).
There is zero tolerance for data loss or interruption in healthcare, therefore the handling of vulnerable data requires a cloud solution be scalable and highly resilient, with proven disaster recovery solutions available in the event of system failure.
Expertise Required with Healthcare Applications in the Cloud
Cloud providers with specific expertise surrounding cornerstone healthcare applications have much more to offer a healthcare-centric organization than infrastructure, hosting or managed services. They can help with performance tuning, management, monitoring, added interfaces, healthcare exchange, upgrades, fault resiliency, to mention a few value adds. When companies have access to the right knowledge and the right services, they move into the realm of fully managed applications, and from there, they rapidly move towards achievement of meaningful use.
Healthcare organizations utilize dozens of applications to aid in achieving meaningful use of electronic health records as they work towards compliance with HITECH. This is why the cloud provider’s operational expertise and functional support is critical. To meet the accelerated deployment and implementation timelines of these increasingly complex applications, specific, and deep, knowledge is a must.
Fully Managed Solutions Accelerate Meaningful Use
Health system IT departments have become inundated with requirements for new application deployments and existing application upgrades. In an era of products and services promising cost savings, not many can accelerate the deployment of clinical applications and meaningful use.
A well-engineered, purpose-built cloud solution can. Besides reducing material costs by 20-40%, it will also cut the risk of catastrophic failure by providing system backup in a distinctly separate site, mirroring data and putting login safeguards in place to ward off attacks.
Advancement in IT will be a critical component to improving the quality of care and security of patient data. Fully managed virtual cloud solutions span the continuum of application offerings, enabling healthcare organizations to focus on user and patient facing initiatives, rather than technology deployment and upgrades.