Can Cloud Computing Help Solve Healthcare’s Looming IT Crisis?

The title of this post comes from a whitepaper called “How Cloud Computing Can Help Solve Healthcare’s Looming IT Crisis” that was done by Intel together with CareCloud and terremark (A Verizon Company). My initial reaction when reading this whitepaper was “what looming healthcare IT crisis are they talking about?”

The whitepaper makes the general case about the challenges of so much regulation, security, and privacy issues related to healthcare IT. I guess that’s the crisis that they talk about. Certainly I agree that many a healthcare CIO is overwhelmed by the rate of change that’s happened in healthcare IT to date. Is it a crisis? Maybe in some organizations.

However, more core to what they discuss in the paper is whether cloud computing can provide some benefits to healthcare that many organizations aren’t experiencing today. The whitepaper cites a CDW study that just 30 percent of medical practices have transitioned to cloud computing services. No doubt I’ve seen the reluctance of many organizations to go with cloud computing. Although, as one hospital CIO told me, we have to do it.

The whitepaper makes the case that cloud computing can help with:
-Security, compliance and privacy
-Cost efficiency and improved focus
-Flexibility and scalability

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whitepaper and its comments on the value of cloud computing. Should healthcare be shifting everything to cloud computing? Is there a case to be made for in house over cloud computing? Will some sort of hybrid approach win out?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

9 Comments

  • First, I have no desire to submit my email to receive the download…so I didn’t read the white paper.

    Second, the cloud if far from the savior that the vendors purport it to be.

    As one who has conducted hundreds of security risk assessments, whether the practice is “on the cloud” or not has very little input on their risk posture.

    Being on the cloud has pros and cons. Every practice is different.
    I see better success rates in the smallest of practices (for those 4 doc practices that like to claim they are small, this probably does not include you – but if you have under 10 computers in use total, it might work out).

    You simply can not “be on the cloud” and magically be HIPAA compliant, there is way too much involved for it be that simple.

    The cost argument is arguable and I’ll leave that to someone else.

    Simplicity is a lame claim.
    Updates should be easy right? Well, when a cloud EHR still requires software to be manually installed on all the client pc’s for the upgrade, simplicity is not happening?

    Remember folks, very few EHRs run from your web browser (like Facebook does). For those EHRs that do, you generally have to be very careful to NOT install any tool bars or you’ll bring things down (everytime you upgrade Java they try to install another tool bar, for example).

    Is being on the cloud flexible? Yes. Potentially handy if you have multiple satellite offices.
    Scalable? yes. Handy as you plan rapid growth in your practice.
    Do either of these apply to your practice?

    Finally remember this cycle:
    Mainframe – PC – Server/Thin Client – PC – Cloud…

    This is the cycle the computing world has gone through over the last few decades. You can easily substitute mainframe for Server/thin client and cloud.

  • John,
    I follow your blog regularly, although this is the first time that I have felt that I have something to contribute in terms of a comment. What is that phrase from talk radio: “long-time listener, first-time caller :)”…

    I also find that the claims of cloud providers are a bit hyped. Yes, cloud can be a good option in some cases for some types of applications or data. Also, I think that there are many different models for cloud which healthcare IT professionals may want to educate themselves about. These include options for private cloud within second sites in their own hospital systems, which are not outside of their firewall and control.

    Fair disclosure: BridgeHead is not a cloud provider but we work with cloud providers to serve hospitals. And, we provide data management software which is cloud-enabled. We do not push any particular model on our hospital customers, however, because we know that doesn’t work.

    If your readers are interested, we did have a recent blog post of our own on the topic of hospital cloud. Your readers can find it at:
    http://www.bridgeheadsoftware.com/company/blog/debunking_the_fear_of_cloud_for_healthcare_it/

    All the best and please keep up the great blogging :).

    Kelly

  • John,

    When it comes to “The Cloud” or even choosing an EMR, I think too many people forget who the audience is. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, and in another career, I had to deal with doctors. At one point I sold typewriters and another copiers. In both instances there was only competitor. IBM Selectrics were probably the worst typewriter ever thought of for typing any kind of forms. As doctors have been known to use a lot of forms, that choice didn’t make a lot of sense. But it didn’t make any difference. All their peers had them and they were a safe choice.

    Then their was the copier. Mine had buckets full of features perfect for doctors. No matter, a featureless Xerox copier was the product of choice. Specifically, safe.

    Today, the industry is asking the medical profession to leave the safety of paper files. That is moving along pretty well, but now they jump in with putting all those files in “A CLOUD”? Not likely.

    I was lucky enough to meet with 3 doctors this week. My GP, is never going to automate. 5-6 years from now and he’s going fishing. The second one has an EHR systems. I don’t know who makes it. He has quite a few names for it, but I won’t use them here. The third is a surgeon who is oh the hospital board. I asked him about using the cloud for storage. He chuckled a bit and basically let me know that it was not going to happen as long as the current team ran the hospital.

    Their was one thing they all had in common. All still had a selectric and all drove a Mercedes. Sticking their necks out to move to fast, especially in the clouds? Don’t see that happening with this generation of physicians.

    Paul

  • John Brewer,
    It’s an interesting point about EHR software being as universally compatible as Facebook. Most are not and so it’s almost as bad as having to install client software.

    Kelly,
    Glad you joined in on the conversation. Now that you’ve cracked it open, I hope you’ll join in the conversation more often;-)

    I think you highlight the key challenge with cloud. Many are fearful of it and what it means.

    Paul,
    Good analogies. There are many that won’t switch to the cloud. In fact, they won’t switch to EHR either. Although, that will change. It already is changing. Some will come reluctantly. Others will retire. My only question is how fast and how long will client server be able to hold on.

  • As a physician and co-founder of a new cloud-based EMR company I have a few perspectives on this topic. One of the most difficult challenges is to get doctors to accept change of any type. That includes relinquishing control of their medical records. However prior to pursuing a cloud strategy for our EMR we performed a survey of our target doctors. We were pleased to discover that 2/3 of the doctors accepted the idea of a cloud EMR as long as there was adequate security. In our current times of iPhones and web access to banking records there has been a general shift of the security of web based data. Think how just 10 years ago the idea of internet shopping was only for the adventurous. Now it is mainstream.

    Regarding the market for cloud based EHR the earlier comments are on target. Doctors who are within 5 years of retirement will never switch to any new EMR technology, digital, cloud or anything else. Those docs will retire before they are forced to change. Similarly for doctors in hospitals and large multispecialty clinics, decisions about EMR adoption are made by executives in boardrooms not by the individual doctors. That is why we have a very specific target for our software. We are focused on private practice surgeons who are able to make decisions about software and are least well served by the existing glut of software designed for internal medicine and family practice doctors.

    We believe the cloud is the future of computing as well as healthcare. Our solution requires zero downloads for the user. This does make upgrades and updates seamless. It is platform agnostic and can run equally well on tablets as well as desktop computers.

    As far as the benefit of cloud data to our physicians, we will use the consolidated data to create standard practice patterns of care based on various procedures. Our doctors will be able to privately compare their own protocols to their peers, something that previously has never been available to private practice surgeons.

    Robert Pollack MD
    Co-founder of SupraMed, Inc

  • Dr. Pollack,
    Thanks for joining in on the conversation. I’ve found the same with the cloud. Many doctors are just as concerned with the EHR in their closet as they are the EHR in the cloud. They’re more interested in your approach to privacy as much as anything.

    I’ll be interested to see how it goes creating a standard practice pattern. To use an overused phrase, If you’ve seen one physician practice, you’ve seen one physician practice. In some ways, that’s the major challenge of EHR.

    Welcome to the world of EHR. I always love brave new entrants!

  • John,
    You are absolutely correct. It is a mistake to try to make doctors work a certain way or develop a standard practice pattern. We will simply be collating metrics of care and allow the doctor to see where he falls on that scale. Things like… how often a certain procedure requires revisions, how frequently a post op infection occurs. This will allow the doctor to see how he compares to his peers and identify which areas may need improvement.

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